Mesa woman lost $1,800 in "virtual kidnapping" scam; wants others to learn from her experience

MESA, Ariz. (FOX 10) -- A Mesa woman said she is out her life savings after a phone call from someone claiming they took her mother hostage. Now, she wants others to learn from her experience.

The woman, Cheyenne Lovering-Hawkins, said she won't answer numbers she doesn't recognize anymore, after she said the person on the phone threatened her mom's life, and convinced her to empty her savings account before wiring the money over. She's reporting the incident to the FBI.

"She was just in a panic," said Lovering-Hawkins. "It was panic. It was just horror. It was awful."

Lovering-Hawkins said the voice on the other line sounded just like her mom. She heard the voice, moments after taking a call from a strange number.

"Two digits and three digits and another three digits, but there were spaces in between all of them," said Lovering-Hawkins.

Lovering-Hawkins said she spoke to someone posing as a cop, and another person claiming to have taken her mom hostage, with both people switching over on the line, giving her instructions.

"it was three and a half hours of me thinking she was going to die," said Lovering-Hawkins.

She said they threatened to kill her mother if she didn't pay a ransom.

"I went to the bank, and I pulled out everything I had," said Lovering-Hawkins. "Every last penny I had, so they cleared me out."

Wiped out of $1,800, Lovering-Hawkins said she called her mom, who was safe the whole time.

"Once she had no idea, it clicked in my head and I just went, 'oh my God, I just got played,'" said Lovering-Hawkins.

Lovering-Hawkins said wishes she recognized the suspicious signs right away, but she said panic took over. She is now financially stressed, and is three months pregnant. She wants others to learn from her experience.

"Just think twice," said Lovering-Hawkins. "Make sure you put that extra thought into it."

The FBI is aware of situations like this, calling this type of call a "virtual kidnapping scam". They said the scheme originates within Mexican prisons, and most virtual kidnappings for ransom remain unreported.