LORANGER, LA — Dawn Faust had a hard time holding back her tears Thursday, Jan. 24. The source of her angst was due to an emotional phone call that was placed with the hope of scamming her out of money.
“He insisted that the last time I would see my son would be at the funeral home,” she described. “He said that his blood would be on my hands.”
A telephone scam that plays on fear is being reported to law enforcement agencies across the nation.
“A woman contacted us about this on Tuesday. We contacted our neighboring agency and they verified that they are handling similar complaints,” David Melancon, Thibodaux Police Department, said. “What our detectives learned after doing a little research is that this is happening all over the nation.”
Unlike typical phone scams that promise some sort of monetary prize, these scam artists claim to have a loved one who is being held hostage.
“These predators are hoping to have people react on an emotional level and react on haste,” Melancon said. “This is not your average scam.”
Faust noted that although the caller did raise a red flag at one point, the entire premise of the call seemed logical.
“He called to inform me that my son or brother had just had an accident with his brother at the store,” she said. “By this time I was crying hysterically.”
The thought that her son had been involved in a car accident immediately struck an intense response. Faust explained she had been in a serious car crash earlier that year and nearly died as a result of her injuries. Her recovery has been long and extensive, so the idea that her son was possibly hurt in the same way was almost too much.
But the call got worse.
“He told me that my son had hit his brother’s new BMW, and messed up his bumper,” she continued. “As his brother got out of the car, irate, my son got cocky and his brother pulled out a gun on him, hit him upside the head with the butt of the gun, and his brother then had my son at his house as a hostage at gunpoint.
“He then told me that the damage was $600, and as long as I would get the money to him, he would reassure me that my son wouldn’t be hurt,” she continued. “He then asked if I had the money. I said yes. He then told me to stay on the phone with him as I go to Hammond to the bank, then go to Western Union and give him the reference number. If I did that, my son would be released.”
Faust had her daughter attempt to text her 17-year-old brother while she remained on the phone with the person she believed to be holding him hostage.
He didn’t reply to the text.
Faust's daughter got in the car and drove to the high school her brother attends. As she pulled into the driveway of the school, Faust's son responded to the original text.
“He was at school the whole time," she said. "My daughter called me on my sister’s phone, and I mouthed to my sister to tell her to check him out and put her eyes on him to make sure he was okay.
“Later, when he got in my sight, all I could do is hug him and smell him and just listen to his voice,” Faust said with tears in her eyes. “We’ve had a string of bad luck this year, and this just topped it off.”
Once Faust realized her son was not in any danger, she began to antagonize the caller, who she described as a man with a Spanish accent. He eventually hung up on her and she called the police.
“We want people to be aware of what’s happening and to let people know to report this if it happens to you,” Melancon noted. “Even if your loved one is sitting next to you when they call, still report it. Every bit of information will help us with this investigation.”
Faust, presumably like all the victims who have been called thus far, hopes that the individuals responsible will eventually be held accountable.
“I don’t want anyone else to go through or feel the hell I felt,” she said.