“Pay Us or We’ll Chop Off Your Daughter’s Finger” 03/26/2019 From a reader comes good advice about a terrifying call: Thank you for both Free-Range Kids [the predecessor to Let Grow] and Let Grow. Had I not been an avid follower of both for several years, things may have turned out differently yesterday. We have been slowly letting our kids obtain more independence - starting with staying at home by themselves while we popped over to the neighbors to return a lent item, then to walk around the block, etc - slowly increasing responsibilities as they prove themselves ready. They are now at the stage where I feel comfortable going to our neighbor's house to hang out while the kids stay home, or leaving them to make a quick trip to the grocery store. Which is what I did yesterday, except that as I pulled into the grocery store parking lot (5 mins after leaving home), I received a phone call from an unknown number. It started with someone sobbing/a muffled screaming which I couldn't quite make out. I asked, "Who is this?" and a man's voice came on the line, addressed me by name, and said that he had my daughter. Due to Free-Range Kids & Let Grow, I knew that stranger-based kidnappings are VERY rare, and therefore was able to stay calm and realize that the sobs didn't sound like my daughter, and that the chances of someone having broken into my home in the 5 mins since I was gone, got my phone number from the kids, and called me, would be VERY unlikely. And I was able to realize that it was odd he only mentioned my daughter, not my son who was also left at home. So when he couldn't tell me my daughter's name (just threatened to cut off her finger and send it to me) I hung up on him, drove straight home to check the kids were ok (they were), and promptly reported the call to the police and FBI. Apparently this "virtual kidnapping" is on the rise - they take advantage of people panicking and try to extort payments from them (typically targeting the elderly and saying they have their grandchild, although it appears their methods are changing). It sounds like this virtual kidnapping may actually be more prevalent than real stranger-involved kidnapping (but is still pretty rare, obviously). Anyway, I just wanted to thank you again for spreading the word about the real likelihood of "bad things" happening so that my mind wasn't already in a "high alert" status from all the over-the-top media coverage of childhood dangers, which could have resulted in me panicking and forking over money to "save" my kid. I was still pretty freaked out about the incident, but can only imagine how much worse I would have felt if I had thought it was real and hadn't had my rational brain telling me that it was a hoax. Kind regards and keep up the good work! Emma PS : The kids love their ever-increasing freedom - they also walk down to our local arts center for piano lessons and other classes, cook their own dinner at least once a week, and they feel so proud of themselves when they do! Oh, and they've adopted the empty lot at the end of our street (which has a "pit" where the old house's foundation used to be) and spend HOURS down there making mud pies and who knows what down there! Great instincts on Emma's part. And for those who think stranger danger is rampant, remind them that even the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children -- the folks who put the pictures ON THE MILK CARTONS -- are now begging parents to stop teaching their children about "strange danger," because it points everyone in the wrong direction in terms of keeping kids safe.