“We were sitting in our garage just after 6:30 p.m. and the phone rang and, initially, it was my daughter in panic,” parent Sal Pitera said.
Pitera and his wife Debi said the caller, who had a local number, claimed to have kidnapped their 27-year-old daughter, who lives in Akron.
“He knew her name,” Sal said. “He knew the general area where she worked, ordered us to go to the bank. He knew what bank we went to.”
The Piteras said the call felt very real because they could hear their daughter’s voice crying for help.
“She started screaming that she was blindfolded, and that she was in a trunk,” Sal said. “And then the gentleman came back on and started screaming demands of money, and that he was going to kill our daughter if we didn’t comply with him exactly.”
“Every emotion you could possibly imagine is going through your body,” Debi said. “And all you want to do is help your child, and your hands are tied, and you can only do so much. You just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The couple first tried to call their daughter with no answer. Then they made the move to call 911 from a second phone to get help from authorities.
“The thought of it being a scam or fraud never even entered our mind,” Sal said.
The couple raced to an ATM, where they said they felt like they were being watched. The bank was closed for the day, making the ransom request impossible to complete.
The caller then started walking the couple through the steps to complete a task inside a Walmart, but that’s when the Brimfield Police Department was able to meet with the family and find a workaround way to contact their daughter.
“They let me talk to her, and I found out that she was safe. And then they came back and said, ‘Hang up the phone. It’s a scam,” Debi said.
Police Chief Roy Mosley said these scam calls happen frequently and often target the elderly, and successfully. He recommends that if you receive a call that feels suspicious, you should hang up and immediately call local police.
The family is still shaken by the whole ordeal but said they wanted to share their story to raise awareness to prevent this from happening to anyone else.
“If you have to go through this, it’s the worst thing ever,” Sal said. “So I hope this gets the message out to call the loved one right away — in any means possible. But I don’t know what the right thing is to do. We’re just so thankful it worked out OK.”