Olympic swimmer Rowdy Gaines is using his platform to warn others of the dangers of phone scams after he nearly fell victim to a disturbingly complex scheme involving a fake kidnapping earlier this month.
Gaines, a three-time gold medalist, detailed the experience in an interview with Orlando’s Fox 35 this week: He and his wife Judy were planning to go see a movie when they received a call that seemed as if it had come from their daughter Madison, the couple told the outlet.
When they answered the call, however, it was not Madison on the phone; instead, a man answered, and he claimed to have kidnapped their daughter.
“They said they were going to kill her,” Gaines told the outlet.
Making the kidnapper seem even more authentic was the fact that, when the Gaines’ asked to speak to Madison, they seemingly obliged.
“I heard her voice and I said, ‘Are you okay?’ ‘Yes but I need help,’ and then they cut her off right away,” Gaines said.
During the call, the man threatened to kill Madison and then himself, Gaines revealed in a Facebook post describing the incident.
What seemed like an actual kidnapping turned out to be an elaborate scheme, however.
While Gaines was on the phone with the so-called kidnappers, Madison was also on the phone with another scammer, who had called her and claimed to be with the police, she explained in her own emotional Facebook video.
The scammers told her that there was a warrant out for her arrest in relation to minor infractions, and duped the college student into sending hundreds of dollars.
They even managed to get Madison into a brief three-way call with her parents in order to lend credence to their kidnapping claim.
Once the police got involved, they were quickly able to surmise that no actual kidnapping had occurred, and informed the Gaines family that they had been targeted by scammers, NBC News reports.
Police further theorized that the scammers were able to get information on the family by hacking into Madison's social media accounts, according to Fox 35.
Since the incident, Gaines and his family have been speaking out in an effort to raise awareness of virtual kidnapping scams.
Gaines took to social media to thank his followers for the support they’ve provided to him and his family after going public with the incident.
“We can’t let these criminals control who we are and want to be,” he wrote. “As embarrassed as I am . . . Our hope is this post will help others have a shield to these types of scams and create an awareness to others.”
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.