Last week, Donald Olson got a terrifying call about his wife of 38 years, Nancy.
The caller said Nancy had been kidnapped from their Coweta County home.
"It was a Mexican-type voice and he was really trying to sound mean and he says, 'I have your wife,'” Olson said. “And he says, 'You think this is a game. I will hurt her.'”
Nancy, who has multiple sclerosis, is bedridden. Donald asked the caller what his demands were for Nancy's safe release.
"'Do you want me to go to the bank and get everything I can and come to the house with it?'” Donald asked. “But he would say anything like that."
The irritated anonymous caller became frustrated and hung up on Donald.
“I didn't know if something was going on here or not so I called the police,” Olson said.
As police raced to their home, Donald met up with officer.
"I gave the officer my key so they wouldn't have to bust down the door,” he said.
Thinking Nancy was in harm's way the Coweta County SWAT team quickly converged on the Olsson's home.
The officer were on the front porch with rifles locked and loaded.
"He peeked his head in and I said, 'Come on in,'” Nancy Olson said. “I didn't know. I knew was a policeman so I wasn't afraid."
Nancy was safe.
Authorities said it was all a scam to frighten Donald into possibly giving the caller cash for his wife's freedom.
According to Coweta County investigators, this is the third such extortion attempt in recent weeks.
The FBI calls the scam "virtual kidnapping."
"Although virtual kidnapping takes on many forms, it is always an extortion scheme—one that tricks victims into paying a ransom to free a loved one they believe is being threatened with violence or death," the FBI writes.
The FBI said in many cases the calls randomly come in from Mexico hoping someone takes the bait. The scammers attempt to keep their victims on the phone as long as possible so that they can't contact loved ones or law enforcement.
According to the FBI, the callers are "always in a hurray" and usually demand a wire payment of $2,000 or less due to legal restrictions on what can be transferred across the border.
The FBI said you should consider the following if you receive a phone call from someone demanding ransom for an alleged kidnapping victim:
- In most cases, the best course of action is to hang up the phone.
- If you do engage the caller, don't call out your loved one's name.
- Try to slow the situation down. Request to speak to your family member directly. Ask, “How do I know my loved one is okay?”
- Ask questions only the alleged kidnap victim would know, such as the name of a pet. Avoid sharing information about yourself or your family.
- Listen carefully to the voice of the alleged victim if they speak.
- Attempt to contact the alleged victim via phone, text, or social media, and request that they call back from their cell phone.
- To buy time, repeat the caller's request and tell them you are writing down the demand, or tell the caller you need time to get things moving.
- Don't agree to pay a ransom, by wire or in person. Delivering money in person can be dangerous.
- If you suspect a real kidnapping is taking place or you believe a ransom demand is a scheme, contact your nearest FBI office or local law enforcement immediately. Tips to the FBI can also be submitted online at tips.fbi.gov. All tipsters may remain anonymous.