MILWAUKEE — Amy Meyer and her fiance Matthew Kosnik of Milwaukee never thought answering an unknown number would give them the biggest scare of their lives.
"I could hear this girl crying 'Help me, mom!'" Meyer said.
"It sounded like Emily," said Kosnik.
"It sounded like my daughter," Meyer said.
Meyer was convinced, the woman on the other end was her 23-year-old daughter, Emily, who lives in Texas.
"They knew her name, my name, where we live," Meyer said.
"They knew your phone number to call you," said Kosnik.
"They knew she had a new car," Kosnik continued.
"The cry sounded so desperate and real and terrified," said Meyer.
Meyer then says a man got on the phone and first told Meyer he was a police officer. Then his story changed.
He told her Emily witnessed his drug deal in a grocery store parking lot in Texas. He told Meyer he kidnapped her.
"I grabbed her and she's in the back of my truck and I'm terrified that she is going to testify against me," Meyer recalled the man said over the phone.
"Oh my God, I may never see her again," Meyer said.
Another man called Kosnik separately. The couple says they didn't have a second to call 911.
"They took control of the call so well and had us both separated," Kosnik said.
"If you were silent for longer than two seconds they were yelling and screaming. They wanted to make sure you were there on the phone talking to them every second," Kosnik said.
Police and the FBI would later tell the couple they were victims of a phone scam.
This was more than an hour-long ordeal involving fear tactics, threats, and ransom money for what the couple believed was an actual kidnapping.
"Anytime I would ask him a question like 'What's her full name? Are you sure it's my daughter? What's her full name? He would say, 'Do you want to ask questions? Or do you want to see your daughter again?'" Meyer said.
"It's about trust. So if you can give me something to show that I can trust you, then I will take her back to the grocery store unharmed not a hair on her head will be hurt," Meyer recalled the man telling her on the phone.
In a panic, Kosnik wrote down what he was instructed to do. He drove to a Walmart in Franklin. He used a money gram and wired about $800 to Mexico -- money the couple hasn't recovered.
Their daughter, Emily, was totally fine at her job in Texas, unaware of the drama unfolding.
"Did you ever think that you would fall victim to this type of scheme?" Consumer Investigator Kristin Byrne asked the couple.
"No! Absolutely not," Meyer said.
"We are pretty skeptical of people in the first place," added Kosnik.
"So, what part about this was different then?" asked Byrne.
"It sounded like her. It sounded like Emily," Kosnik answered.
The FBI says the best thing to do is to hang up the phone.
The FBI shares criminals behind these extortion schemes go to great lengths to keep you on the line and will try and prevent you from contacting the "kidnapped" victim.
"Criminals involved and those that are engaging in these scams use different types of technology and they can use even different types of recordings so people think that their loved one is being kidnapped," explained Christopher Farrell, Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI Milwaukee Division.
"These criminals are very sophisticated. A phone number is not necessarily traced to them and can be traced to additional phone numbers. They could also be using computers to generate phone numbers and using blocking software or encrypted software which can make our jobs much more difficult," Farrell continued.
"Anytime you are dealing with an investigation that goes outside of the United States, then you are dealing with foreign governments and that can make things even more difficult. So, these investigations can be very tricky," he said.
Since the call, Meyer realizes there were so many red flags. She says fear paralyzed her from thinking clearly.
The couple contacted both Franklin and Milwaukee Police who recommended they contact the FBI's Milwaukee Divisions. They reported it to the FBI.
They wanted to share what happened to them, so it doesn't happen to someone else.
"Going back in my mind, there are so many holes in this story," Meyer said.
"There's still a part of my mind that hasn't recovered," she continued.
"Even now days later I can still remember the voice and it sounds like Emily in my head," said Kosnik.
If you suspect fraud or attempted fraud call the FBI Milwaukee field office at 414-276-4684. You can also contact the national call center at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324). Or email tips.fbi.gov
Amy Meyer and Matthew Kosnik started a GoFundMe account to help them recover the money they lost in the scheme.