How to Protect Yourself From Family Emergency Phone Scams

PHOTO : A man answers a phone call in this undated file photo.PlayGetty Images
WATCH How to Protect Yourself Against Kidnapping Hoaxes

When an anonymous caller phoned a North Carolina woman last week, his words stopped her in her tracks.

“This man started yelling at me, ‘Your daughter's been in a car accident,'” she said.

The woman, asking ABC News not to name her, said the caller told her that her daughter had injured his nephew, a young boy, in the accident.

The male caller said her daughter had been abducted after the accident.

“He said, 'If you put the phone down ... we're just going to shoot her,’” she said.

The caller demanded she head to the bank and withdraw $2,800 -- purportedly for the hospital bills of the caller's nephew -- and sent her texts in which he threatened to kill her daughter if she didn’t comply.

“A girl got closer to the phone and was sobbing, yelling and screaming, 'Help me mom, help me, help me mom,’” the woman said, adding, “I've never had a scarier moment in my life.”

The woman did as she was told, but also wrote a note to her bank teller. “Help daughter has been kidnapped He is on phone meeting me at Walmart Help He wants $2800. Call police. Call my husband,” she wrote.

Police searched for the woman’s daughter and found her safe. The caller’s claim was a hoax.

"We told her she didn't need to wire any money," said Basil Marett, Interim Chief of Police for the Belmont, North Carolina, Police Department.

Law enforcement officials have issued warnings about similar family emergency phone scams. Experts say anyone who faces such a call can take steps.

“Force a kidnapper to provide you with more details which he or she does not have,” Brad Garrett, an ABC News contributor and former FBI agent, said.

Below are other tips from the Better Business Bureau:

How to Protect Yourself From an Emergency Scam

1. Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story.

2. Check out the story with other family and friends. Call phone numbers that you know to be genuine (not the number provided by the caller).

3. Ask questions that would be hard for an impostor to answer correctly.

4. Know what you and your family members are sharing online. Use privacy settings to limit what you share and encourage others to do the same.

5. Check for more advice and to report a scam.