Phone scammers threaten to shoot local woman and her son

TOWN OF TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB)- A surprise call Sunday afternoon turned into a nightmare for a Tonawanda mom.

An unknown caller claimed Amy Nienhaus’ teenage son had been in a car crash. Posing as a first responder, he demanded $10,000 to keep him out of trouble.

She immediately hung out.

“They immediately called back when I hung up and said listen lady, we’ve got (your son) and we have a gun to his head,” Nienhaus told News 4.

She said they threatened to shoot her son in the head she hung up again.

Around the same time, her son received a similar call, that she’d been in a crash. Again, the caller demanded cash.

They even manipulated the caller ID.

“At one point, my son’s phone rang saying that it was me calling him,” Nienhaus said.

“They’re using fear. It sounds entirely convincing,” Capt. Joseph Carosi of the Town of Tonawanda Police Department told News 4.

“Being very demanding, very forceful on the phone. Going to the point of maybe having a muffled scream in the background to again, play on your fears and make you think oh my gosh, this is really happening,” he continued.

But chances are it’s not really happening, said Capt. Joseph Carosi.

Phone scams have been around a long time, but this is the first case of what some are calling “virtual kidnapping.”

“It’s easy for them to find this information if they’re looking in the right places,” Carosi said.

These scammers, from Florida and Puerto Rico, even knew the Nienhaus’ son’s name.

“I think they use the MO every time and they’re going fishing. And you know, they caught a fish,” she said.

But not for long; Nienhaus was smart enough to go to the police station.

Carosi said securing your social media pages if one way to protect yourself.

If you do get an odd call like Nienhaus did, ask to speak to your loved one, or ask the suspect to describe what the victim is wearing. Chances are, they won’t be able to, said Carosi.

Given that these scams are often across state lines, Carosi told News 4 they’re often very hard to prosecute. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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