Mom Answers Mystery Call & Hears Son Begging For Help, but Scammers Are Behind It All


Summer and time after school used to mean kids moving in swarms on bikes, playing games of twilight hide-and-seek, and getting into general shenanigans.

But times have changed. Now it has become more commonplace for kids to spend their time indoors, on electronic devices, than outside.

This may result in fewer stubbed toes and skinned knees and protects kids from external stranger danger, but there’s the potential for even more nefarious danger lurking in your own home.

Several toys have been examined after parents have realized that something wasn’t quite right: apps on phones that connect their kids to strangers, dolls that record kids’ answers — the list goes on.

Now one mother suspects Xbox Live might be another channel, giving shady characters access to vital information.

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Cindy Owens has an 11-year-old son named Jaden who, like many kids his age, enjoys playing various games. She hadn’t really thought critically about that fact until last month.

About three weeks ago, Owens left her son at home to go out. Her mother was on the way over to watch him and should be there shortly.

While she was driving, she got a phone call. She ignored it the first time, but the second time the same number rang with the local area code, she picked up.

“It was a child on the other line, sounded just like my son,” she said. “Crying, frantic, ‘Mom, I’m in trouble, please help.'”

She was convinced it was her son, so when a man came on the line and demanded money, she had no option but to wire the demanded amount.

“I need you to drive straight to your bank,” said the man on the other end of the line, who introduced himself as Alex. “I need $5,000 or you will never see him again.”

She followed his directions exactly. When she’d finished wiring $3,800 of the $5,000, Jaden texted her.

He wasn’t panicking. He wasn’t in any sort of trouble. He just wanted to know when she’d be home.

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Obviously, the stories weren’t lining up. The person on the phone claimed to be holding her son for a ransom, and yet her son was texting her, completely unfazed.

Her son was fine, and the whole thing turned out to be a scam. She was unsettled by the voice, though: It sounded just like Jaden — how could someone get his voice?

The only answer she could come up with was that perhaps the communication her son had through Xbox Live had been hacked and/or recorded and shaped into the chilling message she’d received.

Steve North, who works as a lead technician at a mobile repair shop said that Owens could be right. “I’ve seen some weird situations with people talking to people, online especially through Xbox,” he said.

Possible, but not probable — North said that it would be “near impossible to piece all this together, just by hacking somebody.” The scammer would have had to get whole phrases or sentences.

This changes the game: If scammers can get their words in your voice or your child’s voice, the possibilities are terrifying.

Any time you go online, you have to be aware of the inherent dangers. Technology is a powerful tool, but it can easily be commandeered into a powerful weapon.

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