BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It’s any parent’s worst nightmare — their child is missing and a scam artist stumbles upon the missing flier with their contact information and preys on them in their most vulnerable state.

This scenario appears to be the case in the disappearance of 27-year-old Nathan Killcrece, found safe last week after missing for several weeks.

Before he was found unharmed, his family turned to social media for help after filing a missing persons report. According to the family and to court documents, Killcrece’s mother posted on Facebook asking for help in finding her son. She included her contact information, as many parents of missing children often do. 

On Aug. 6, the missing man’s mother received numerous messages from a phone number using the app “TextNow” that essentially allows people to send messages and make calls through WiFi.

The messages indicated someone had kidnapped Killcrece, had him in a bad area and would continue to hurt him if his mother didn’t pay a ransom of $5,000. Killcrece’s family told us at the time that they believed the messages were from someone trying to scam them, but they were terrifying nonetheless, especially as they didn’t know where Killcrece was and if he was safe. 

Search warrants show that the sheriff’s department was investigating the phone number the ransom messages were sent from with a New Jersey area code, but their investigation concluded once Killcrece was located unharmed.

Investigators say at that point they could rule out the possibility that he’d been kidnapped.

Because Killcrece’s family lives out of state, the potential scam they could’ve fallen victims to is not in KCSO’s jurisdiction but could be investigated by law enforcement in their area if they chose to report it.

Killcrece’s family says it’s heartbreaking someone would try to scam them during a time of desperation. They say they’re grateful and very happy to have him home safe.