ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Albuquerque Police said local doctors have been the target of a virtual kidnapping scam. An Albuquerque doctor got a call at work from someone claiming he was with a cartel, he had his daughter, and he threatened to kill her.
Albuquerque Police officer Simon Drobik said the scheme is spreading, and there’s been several recent cases now in New Mexico.
Dr. Miguel Gallegos told KRQE News 13 the person who called his work was very aggressive and sounded legitimate. Until he knew his daughter was safe, the doctor said he would have done anything to get her back.
“It’s the worst fear you could ever imagine,” said Gallegos.
Gallegos got a call this week that’s still haunting him. A person called his workplace claiming to be another doctor, but when Gallegos got on the line, his story changed.
“He said that he was with a cartel,” Gallegos recalled. “He said that he did this for a living.”
The caller also claimed he had Gallegos’ 11-year-old daughter.
“He would not hesitate to kill my daughter or kill me if I didn’t immediately do exactly what he said,” Gallegos explained.
The caller demanded thousands of dollars in ransom, and wouldn’t let Gallegos hang up the phone. He had his staff and wife calling his daughter’s school in a panic, but his daughter was on a field trip. Gallegos said 45 minutes after he got the call, police verified his daughter was safe with classmates.
“We’re going to treat this like it is an active kidnapping in progress and we’re going to dedicate every resource we can to this call,” explained officer Simon Drobik, who added these scams have tied up police resources as well.
Drobik said another metro doctor, and one in Rio Rancho got the same fake kidnapping call this week.
Gallegos said he heard a girl screaming in the background, the caller was irate and wouldn’t let him ask questions. He also said the number couldn’t be traced.
“You just want to get your daughter back, that’s it,” said Gallegos, recalling his thought during the phone call. He made it to the bank, and left a patient in his office. The caller knew the color of his vehicle, and claimed to be watching him.
“I would do anything to get my daughter back just like anybody else would,” Gallegos said.
When he learned it was a scheme for money, his fear turned to anger.
“They could also be for real. You don’t know it’s a scam until you know everybody is OK,” he said.
Gallegos said parents should always know where their kids are, and even though he did know, he said schools should be able to give parents information right away, even if they’re on a field trip.
There’s been recent reports of this virtual kidnapping in Texas. APD said it’s not verified the caller is actually with a cartel.
“That’s not been verified, I think that’s just to add more stressful to the individual to force them to go to the bank, and to take them more seriously,” said Drobik.
Police want parents to be aware of this scam, and to call police if anyone receives calls of this nature.