John Stautz was devastated after he received a phone call from a man claiming to be from the U.S. Marine Corps.
The Fargo, North Dakota dad was told his son, a Marine, was dead, killed during a live-fire exercise.
“It took a little while to call my wife and tell her about it. I didn’t know what to say and do. I was just in awe,” Stautz told NBC affiliate KVLY in an interview aired on Friday.
“They wanted to know when and where I wanted him buried and how soon and then they would call me back,” he said.
Stautz’s suspicions were aroused when the man on the phone asked him for his Social Security number.
“I started thinking this is kind of odd because I’ve seen it where the military comes to your door, not call you on the phone,” Stautz said.
Stautz ended up giving his Social Security number to the man on the other line.
When his wife began to contact family members, the couple learned their son was okay.
“My oldest brother got a hold of my daughter, who just happened to say, ‘No, he’s just fine,'” Stautz said.
“Somebody with a really bad thought, twisted thought would have to do this, and that’s a shame it happens to anybody,” he added.
A spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau told KVLY that what happened to Stautz is far from an isolated incident.
“Unfortunately, these scams tend to work because the scammer on the other side ends up instilling fear in the person that they’re calling,” Bess Ellenson, a communications director for the organization, said.
Ellenson advises people not to answer calls from any unknown numbers.