ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - A pillar of the Orlando swimming community and 3 time Olympic gold medalist is warning families everywhere to watch out for an elaborate phone scheme.
Earlier this month, Olympic swimmer Rowdy Gaines, his wife, and his daughter were targeted by schemers in a plot known as virtual kidnapping. Gaines and his wife were on their way to a movie one weekend night when a call came through his cell phone from his daughter Madison’s number.
"This came from her phone number,” said Gaines, “Her face popped up!"
However the call wasn’t Madison. Gaines said a man spoke on the other side of the phone claiming to have kidnapped his daughter who’s currently a college student in Colorado.
“They said they were going to kill her,” said Gaines.
Rowdy and his wife Judy demanded that the so-called kidnapper put his daughter on the phone, and to their surprise, he did.
"I heard her voice and I said, 'Are you okay?' 'yes but I need help,' and then they cut her off right away,” said Rowdy.
Judy began recording the rest of the call as she rushed up to a security guard in their hotel lobby, asking them to call 911. However, it turned out Madison was not with any kidnappers. At the same time as her parents were being schemed on the phone, she too was on the phone with the same group of schemers. Rowdy said her call came from the number for her local police department, and the caller claimed she’d missed a jury duty summons with serious consequences.
"She said, right now you have a warrant out for your arrest,” Madison said in a Facebook video chronicling the incident.
"They knew I was an Olympic swimmer, they knew her address, they knew so many things about her,” said Rowdy.
By the time police got involved and broke up the call, Gaines said his daughter had been conned out of $700 and the whole family was traumatized from the ordeal. Investigators told Gaines Madison’s social media or an online account was likely hacked and the schemers got all of their information from there.
Gaines said the FBI is now involved trying to track those schemers. While the family is now warning everyone to be vigilant for this scheme.
"I don't want anyone else to experience this; it's so horrifying,” said Judy
Others have gotten hit though. The Gaines family said since going public with their encounter, other parents, grandparents, and families have shared with them stories of similar virtual kidnappings.
"This is a completely different type of evil,” said Rowdy.