At least 5 Snohomish County families targeted by frightening kidnapping scam

SNOHOMISH COUNTY -- It’s a phone call that has parents all across our region, on alert. Police want to warn everyone about a kidnapping scam that targeted one family, as recently as Wednesday morning.

“The person on the other line sounded like a young child, like my daughter, hysterically crying. Help mommy. He’s got me and I’m in a van and I can’t get out,” says Mom, Amanda Vrtis.

It’s the kind of call no parent wants to receive, and one Amanda says she wasn’t falling for.

“Then a male came on the phone and he said one word. I didn’t catch what it was and then the line went dead,” says Amanda.

After confirming her kids were safe at school, Amanda says she called the police. “I called the police because I thought well, maybe, if it wasn’t my kids, it was another kid who just got the number wrong. Or the kidnappers got the number wrong,” says Amanda.

That is when Amanda knew the people on the other end of that scary phone call were scammers. 

“We know this is obviously very frightening to folks in the community, which is why we want to get the word out. If you get a phone call like this, write down the number from where they are calling from and hang up immediately,” says Shari Ireton with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators say they’ve received multiple reports of fake kidnapping calls; at least five in Snohomish County, with screaming or crying in the background and a male caller demanding a ransom.

“It sounds real, it doesn’t sound like an adult faking. It sounds like a young child in distress. And as a mom, you know that pitch, that I’m afraid I need help,” says Amanda.

Investigators warn the scammers may be getting personal information from potential victims on social media.

“That’s where they are getting phone numbers and also family member names. Just a reminder to keep that information off your social media accounts or at least check the privacy settings,” says Ireton.

Amanda is just grateful her daughter is really OK.

“It’s going to take a while before I’m OK with them walking to the bus stop. And if they aren’t home exactly when they are supposed to be, I’m going to be like, where are they? What are they doing? Why aren’t they home?”, says Amanda.

Q13 News know the calls that were made to victims in Snohomish County, came from numbers with the country code 5-2, which is Mexico.