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Central Texan falls victim to virtual kidnapping

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Posted at 11:49 AM, Jan 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-23 13:14:16-05

Virtual Kidnapping, it's when you receive a call saying your loved one was kidnapped. Except, it's someone pretending to be your loved one. They are crying and pleading for help saying you have to pay to get them back. But be aware because this could be a scam. 

Sounds scary, right? A Chaplain on Fort Hood, John Miller, received one of these calls.

For the purpose of this story, he has asked to change his last name and refrain from using his daughter's name for the privacy of his family. 

It was a normal work day for Miller, he gots in his car and received an incoming call. He answered and immediately there is screaming and crying. 

"I hear the girl on the phone say, 'Daddy, help me'," Miller said. 

Usually, these calls consist of a child, pretending to be yours, crying hysterically, pulling at those heart strings to get you to hand over your money. 

It took all of Miller's power to stay calm and check his sources before giving in. 

"And I said, 'What do you mean? where are you?'" Miller said. "That's when someone else grabbed the line and started saying all of these evil things about what they're going to do to my daughter. And that if I don't listen to them, that they were going to kill her and send her back to me dead." 

Since Miller is a Chaplain, he spends his days providing guidance for soldiers and their families but in this instance, he said he called on God to provide guidance for him. 

"I don't know if that was more of a self-mechanism to be able to, to stay calm but I believe that helped me," Miller said. 

After receiving the first phone call, Miller called his wife, it was a school day so their daughter should be in class. 

Miller sent his daughter a text and gave her a call. She would normally respond right away, but this time no answer. 

He then received a second phone call, the man demanding money was on the phone first. 

"He just kept saying, 'How much does your daughter mean to you?'" Miller said. "I would say, 'She means the world to me.'" 

Miller asks repeatedly to put "his daughter" back on the phone, when she is, he notices that he'd given a different name - Dad. His real daughter only calls him "daddy." 

That's when he started to realize it could be a scam. After calming down, the school then contacted Miller and his wife. 

"The school couldn't find our daughter, and the fear kinda gripped me again," Miller said. 

Miller's daughter was okay, the school had mixed up her schedule and later found her in the library. 

"Looking back on it, we thought 'what are the odds?'" Miller said. "When I finally got eyes on her, I just hugged her." 

Miller did not receive any more phone calls after the second call.

Officials say in these situations to stay calm is key. Keep asking questions, don't send them any money and contact police even if the scammers say otherwise. 

"Ask them to describe your loved one, most of the time they'll miss on that and you'll know that it is a hoax," said Phil Gadd, Harker Heights Police Chief.

It's also good to come up with a code word for the family. If you needed to ask the one pretending to be kidnapped to give that phrase or word. This is something Miller and his family have now put in place. 

"We didn't have any before," Miller said. "There's certain terms and phrases and terms of endearment that we use that are unique to our family." 

It took about 40 minutes from Miller answering the first phone call to the school locating his daughter. In that time, Miller did what you need to do to prove it is a scam. Fact check, contact police, stay calm and ask questions. 

"I told one of my non-commissioned officers that I was going to be a little late to the office," Miller said. "And after everything was settled I told him what had happened and he was surprised at how calm I was on the phone when I called him." 

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