ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque mother is warning other parents after receiving a terrifying and convincing phone call from a man saying he was a police officer and claiming the mother’s child was injured.
Even though she says she was eventually able to figure out the caller was a fake, the mother who got the call says she almost believed she needed to meet up with an officer in order to get her kid back.
“It was psychologically… just terrifying,” said Kassandra Barela, who received the call early Wednesday morning.
An Albuquerque mom of three young kids, Barela says it’s common for her to get legitimate business-related calls from international phone numbers. When an international call from New Zealand showed up on for cell phone Wednesday, she says she didn’t think twice before answering it.
The call ended up being far from normal.
“I did think it was real, a person of authority identifying themselves, that my child has been injured,” Barela said.
Barela says the man who called her identified themselves as an Albuquerque police officer that was with her injured daughter.
“He said, ‘Ma’am, I have your child, and they’ve been injured at school, they bumped their head, my name is Officer Mendez from the Albuquerque Police Department,’” Barela said.
Barela says the person calling even had what sounded like a kid speak into the phone.
“I heard a child’s voice over the phone saying, ‘mama,’ ‘mama, mama, I’m scared,’” said Barela.
Knowing her daughter was at a nearby middle school in the Northeast Heights, Kassandra got in her car and rushed to the school. However, during that drive, the caller said a few things that helped reveal the hoax.
“He said, ‘I need you to pull over for the safety of you and your child,’” Barela said. “’And I need you to meet me at a Smith’s or Walmart to get him,’ and then I said, ‘him?’”
With the caller saying he had Kassandra’s son minutes into the call and not her daughter, Barela drove to Albuquerque Fire Station 16 on Juan Tabo for help. Firefighters met her outside as Barela secretly put the call on speaker.
“And I turned it on speaker, and (the fire station employee), his eyes lit up, he knew exactly what was going on,” said Barela.
The scammer ended the call when he found out others were listening. Barela says she’s sharing the story now, believing that whoever tried to scam her may have been local or targeting other people in Albuquerque.
“I want to alert other parents, I mean, this is scary, what if that parent actually believed that, believe them?” Barela said.
Barela says the firefighters also helped contact the school as this was happening to make sure the kids were OK. Barela says her kids were unaware that anything had happened and were fine.
Albuquerque Fire Rescue says Barela did the right thing in coming to their station. They encourage anyone in a similar situation to do the same thing.