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BOCA RATON (CBS4) – A South Florida family is sounding the alarm after being caught in the net of a devious scam.

On Thursday, 19 year old Casey Gates of Boca Raton, received a frightening cell phone call from a stranger.

“He said ‘my name is Jonathan Rodriguez.  I have your dad Neil, and he’s been in a bad car accident.  He’s unconscious right now and we have him with us’.  So I said ‘ok, please let me call my mother’.  And he said, ‘if you hang up this phone you will never see your father again’. I said ‘I’ll do whatever you want but please get my father to the hospital’.  And he said ‘I need $2000 for damage to my car’.”

The caller was a scam artist, unknown to Casey Gates at the time.  The scammer seemed to know a lot of information about her dad including the type of truck he was driving and how he was dressed.

While Casey Gates pulled over and hailed a stranger for help, her dad Neil Gates who owns a Plantation pool company, received a strange phone call from his daughter.

“All I hear is a yelp and the phone fades away,” said Gates.

Believing his daughter was being kidnapped, Gates started driving home in a hurry.

“When I got that phone call, my heart sank,” said Gates. “I went into overdrive.”

Meanwhile, his daughter had a Good Samaritan call the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s and her mother.

“PBSO knew the number and the name the guy was using. He told me there were ‘five’ other victims and those are just the people who reported it,” said Mary Beth Gates, gaining the information after she arrived and spoke with authorities. Authorities told her that all the victims have the same cell phone carrier and all the numbers begin with the same exchange.

So how did the scammer get the information on the Gates family?

“With the world wide web, the information is out there,” says Deputy Eric Davis with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office.

Davis says if you get a call about a loved one and suspect you are being scammed follow these steps:

1) Get identification from the caller

2) Get a callback number

3) Verify the information with law enforcement.

4) Never pay money

While no money was lost, the Gates family says they were robbed of their sense of security and want the scammer caught.

“I never want anyone to wake up thinking, ‘is my daughter safe’,” said Mary Beth Gates.

If you know anything about this scam call Broward Crime Stoppers (954) 493-TIPS or Palm Beach County Crime Stoppers 1-800-458-TIPS (8477).  

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