Mother, Daughter Targeted in ‘Elaborate' Scam

The pair lost $5,500 to scammers

South Elgin police told a suburban mother and daughter that it is one of the most detailed and elaborate scams they've seen.

On Monday morning, Tina Pelinski was at work when she got a phone call from her daughter's number.

The call was pure terror.

"Two males voices on the other end, explaining to me they had my daughter and that I needed to get ransom money or they were going to rape or kill her," said Pelinski.

Pelinski was given strict orders: stay on the line, don't call police, purchase pre-paid money cards from local businesses. She complied with all three, even as merchants raised questions about what the cards were for.

"In the moment when you think your daughter is going to be killed, you're not going to let them know what you're going through," said Pelinski. "I just said it's for a Christmas party at work...and I'm getting reassurance from the alleged kidnappers (on the phone), saying 'that's a good job. That's a good story you're telling them.'"

Pelinski said she didn't for once think the call was a scam because of the personal stories the scammers detailed: a memory of hearing 2-year-old Hannah play with the Velcro strap on her new shoes; a specific tattoo Hannah has on her right wrist.

How did the scammers know those details? Turns out, daughter Hannah Kosek, 18, was simultaneously swindled by the same scammers.

In her case, she got a call about 7:45 am from someone purporting to be with the Kane County Sheriff's Office that she would face severe consequences for missing jury duty.

"I hadn't been summoned," Kozek said. "I'm freaking out. I'm newly 18. I didn't know. I've never gone to jury duty."

Out of fear, Kozek also obeyed the scammers' commands: purchase pre-paid cards and read the card numbers as "bail money," stay on the phone, pass along an emergency contact number.

"That makes sense if I'm about to go to jail, I supposed they would need (my mom's emergency contact)," Kozek said. "That was when they were asking me very personal things about me and my mom, asking me things that only she would know, so it seemed real to me for some reason."

Hannah said she stayed on the phone for nearly 4.5 hours. No one in her family could reach her during that time.

The plan unraveled when Pelinski's co-worker called police. Pelinski said officers found her still on the phone at a local business, and they had to convince her that it was a scam.

The mother and daughter paid $5500 to scammers. The family has set up a GoFundMe account to recoup their loss. 

"I'm just so angry that they're laughing right now," Pelinski said. "They preyed on our fear. Her fear of going to jail, my fear of losing her."

The South Elgin Police Department issued a community alert Wednesday, warning the public that incidents like this are on the rise in the Chicagoland area.

The release said two phone scams occurred on Nov. 20 in which "the victims were led to believe that there were warrants for their arrest by the Kane County Sheriff's Office and the Internal Revenue Service" and directed to purchase money cards.

Police said government agencies do not accept money cards as forms of payment for fines or bonds.

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