Caller tells dad he had his daughter, demands ransom

It's just about the most terrifying phone call a parent could ever receive.

SOUTHLAKE, Texas (WFAA) -- A father is warning others after falling victim to what's known as a virtual kidnapping.

"It was the worst hour of my life," said Matt Colan.

It started with a phone call Tuesday night. Colan had just dropped his 14-year-old daughter at basketball practice, but the voice on the other end said that she was in danger.

"'We have your daughter. I don't want to harm her, but listen very closely,'" Colan recalled the voice saying. "Then they put her on the phone. A girl. A crying girl, and that put me over the edge. It sounded exactly like my daughter," he said.

The caller demanded money and ordered Colan to go to the ATM, warning to not hang up or call police. Fearing he may never see his daughter again, he jumped in the car and drove to the bank, where he withdrew the maximum $700. He then drove to a grocery store to wire the money, following orders.

"They kind of made it seem like they knew where I was at and what I was doing," Colan said.

Only after he transferred the funds did he realize something seemed off. The caller claimed he needed to know the city and state where Matt was located.

"It really hit me, I was like, these people have no idea where I am," he said.

Colan hung up the line. His family called 911, and his daughter was found right where he left her at basketball practice.

"I just broke down, I was so emotionally drained at that point," he said.

Southlake Police helped locate his daughter, and Police Chief James Brandon says these type of scams are getting far more realistic.

"They're really looking for anybody whose emotions they can prey upon to be able to get that money out of them," Brandon said.

Police rarely get the money back, but Chief Brandon urged people to call 911 immediately if they ever get a threatening call. Whether it is real or a scam, they can be most effective if contacted early.

"The best thing they can do is reach out to us for help," he said.

A national survey by Truecaller found nearly 1 in 10 Americans has fallen for a phone scam in the last year, collectively losing some $7 billion.  It's not just the elderly who are being targeted.  In fact, millennial men were most likely to be fooled by a scammer on the other end of the line.

Colan believes this really can happen to anyone.

"It was the crying girl that did me in," said Colan.

He wants wire transfer companies to put more safeguards in place, and he's sharing his story on his blog and social media to warn others about the call that stole his peace of mind.

"The one thing they've taken away is that sense of security, but they haven't taken away my determination," Colan said.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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