WEST CHESTER Kim Robson was at her real estate job when she received a call that would last for two terrifying hours and leave the 23-year-old West Chester woman shaken.
"We have your dad hostage," Robson said a man screamed into her cellphone. "Leave work right now."
The caller, who identified himself as "Robert," said her father had been involved in a car accident with the caller's brother.
The father declined to give his insurance or other information, an altercation followed, and now he was being held at gunpoint with Robert demanding $1,000 for repairs, Robert said. He said he would shoot him if she did not do exactly as she was told.
Robson would later learn that she was the victim of a scam, variants of which have shown up in Chester County and elsewhere in the nation, including New Jersey, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Florida, and Indiana.
But on Monday, for Robson, the terror was real.
"I had to swear that if I wept or cried or got anyone's attention, they would come to my house and kill my family," Robson said. "I had to continue to talk to him."
"Robert" told Robson to feign a family emergency, leave work, and drive to a nearby store to send a MoneyGram. Speaking in a thick Spanish accent, he was abusive and continued to yell at her, she said. She heard someone yelling for help in the background.
"I didn't know what else to do. I made a quick decision; I had to go with my gut," she said.
"Her only thoughts at that point were to comply," said Detective Scott Pezick of the West Whiteland Township police.
Another man, claiming to be a cousin, got on the phone with Robson. He played along with the scheme, telling Robson her father was being held nearby.
"It was so real," she said. She felt they would do whatever they needed to get the money.
Robson was told to wire the funds to a woman in Puerto Rico. The cousin tried to calm her while she was waiting in line at - even asking about her Thanksgiving, Robson said.
She swiped her bank card and wired the funds.
"Now it was just a waiting game of when will he get the money," Robson said.
Robert said her father would be taken to the closest medical facility to be released because he had been injured in the accident and fight. She was told to go to Chester County Hospital and drive around but not park.
But the story soon began to fall apart.
"Robert" told her the money had arrived, but continued to keep her on the phone. She was not allowed to speak with her father, as promised. Robson was told her father had driven away from the kidnappers in his truck - but he doesn't own a truck.
"Now I am thinking, this is a scam," Robson said. She finally hung up.
Robson, who lives with her father, found out that he was safe at work.
Pezick said the same man unsuccessfully targeted a West Goshen woman, who was able to use a second phone to contact family during the call. In addition, there have been similar hoaxes in central Pennsylvania and more than 100 victims in the Boston area, he said.
"Some of the MoneyGrams are going to Puerto Rico and some to Lancaster County," Pezick said.
After she ended the call, Robson got in touch with her family members and learned they were safe. She canceled her bank card and froze her account.
"I just don't want this to happen to anybody else," Robson said.