[COMMENTARY] New QAnon Phone Scam Targeting Democrats
My phone rang at about 3:15 on Wednesday, September 16th. It was a number I didn’t know, from Mexico, the international number displayed on my screen. I knew it had to be some kind of scam call, and that I probably shouldn’t bother to answer, but my curiosity got the best of me. If nothing else, I knew I’d get a funny tweet out of it. I mean, Mexico? Fine, let’s see what it is.
And it was pretty terrible.
“Hello?” I said in a tone that I hoped sounded no-nonsense.
“Mom?” said a high-pitched voice that I immediately knew didn’t belong to either of the people I gave birth to. “Mom! It’s me, I need help!”
I’d heard about this scam last year. Someone gets a call from a number not in their contacts from someone claiming to be a young relative asking for money, for help. They claim they were kidnapped and taken across the border to Mexico. Senior citizens were the most vulnerable since they aren’t as internet-savvy as some others. I knew exactly where my kids were–at their father’s house 10 minutes away from my apartment in Washington State, where they have their own rooms and own computers and more than one TV, way better than my place. And I knew this because I’d heard from both of them during breaks in their remote learning. So I decided to play along for a bit to see where the obvious scammer on the other end would try to go with it.
ME: Oh really? You need help? Who is this? Tell me your name.
VOICE: It’s ME, Mom! I need help! Mom! It’s ME!
ME: Oh, okay, ME, tell me your name then. I mean, I have more than one kid, so I need to know which kid you are.
VOICE: It’s ME, Mom, you know ME! I need HELP! MOM!!!! PLEASE!!!!
Then I heard a different voice in the background, a deep male voice saying, “Stop talking. Go over there.” Then it seemed like he was talking to another person in the room: “Hold her.” The man then took over speaking for the other voice.
MAN: Can you hear me?
MAN: Can you hear me, TARA?
ME: Yes, I can hear you, what’s your name?
MAN: Can you hear your kid, MRS. DUBLIN?
Now, fine, he knew my first and last name, but I haven’t been a “Mrs” since I got divorced in 2005. And Dublin is the name I was born with, so I have never been a “Mrs. Dublin”. This was now entertainment for me. They had chosen the wrong person to mess with.
ME: Yeah, that’s not my kid. So what’s your name? You know mine, I should know yours.
MAN: I’m not telling you my name, MRS. DUBLIN. Your kid needs your help. Are you going to help?
ME: Yeah, I don’t believe you. Which kid do you have? I have more than one. I need a name so I can figure out which kid I’m supposed to help.
MAN: Your daught—
And that’s when I hung up.
I don’t have a daughter.
Once I stopped shaking (even though I knew it was fake, the “kid” voice was creepy as hell, and the guy knew my name), I took a screenshot and posted about it on Twitter. Several people responded that something similar had happened to them, or their elder relatives, or a neighbor. User John Thurston shared his own screenshot from the same number, which only validates that the scam is spreading.
Um…I didn’t pick it up, but check out the number that called me today. pic.twitter.com/XJOF4mkIpS
— John W. Thurston (@JohnWThurston) September 17, 2020
This scam plays right into the QAnon belief that a “cabal of Hollywood pedophiles” are running a global child trafficking ring, among other outlandish and unverified claims. QAnon has now been classified as both a cult and a domestic terrorist organization by the FBI. Interestingly, I received that scam call less than two hours after I had posted a response to Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon conspiracy theorist running for Congress in Georgia.
Greene blocked me on Twitter, so I went to her Instagram account (because she strangely has plenty of conspiracy theories but no phone contact information on her website) and left a response with a link to a story debunking QAnon. Greene’s former opponent, Kevin Van Ausdal, dropped out of the race unexpectedly last week, citing “family issues”.
The extreme right has long been known for taking their threats from the internet into real life, and while I have no proof that they’re stooping to these specific intimidation tactics, my personal experience and their track record certainly raises questions.
An organized online campaign like this is an indication they’ll stop at nothing to interfere with the election in the attempt to intimidate Democrats from voting. Stay vigilant, and if you should get one of these calls, report it immediately to the FBI.