You can never be too careful about who you speak with online these days. Scammers abound — some are looking to get money from you, while others are just trying to troll you, and a healthy amount of skepticism is, unfortunately, necessary to avoid them.
Understandably, when one New York sheriff’s dispatcher received a call from a heavily accented Irish woman claiming there was an emergency in his area he was also skeptical.
However, her appeals moved him to trust her and it just so happened that he might have saved a life.
New York Senior Dispatcher Steve McAninch received an odd call for assistance — originating over 3,100 miles away.
On July 27, at around 10 a.m., Senior Dispatcher Steve McAninch of the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Dispatch Center in Mayville, New York, received an odd call. There was a 24-year-old woman threatening to do bodily harm to herself. Of course, that was not odd, at all. Though tragic, dispatchers often receive reports like these.
What was odd was the woman on the line. She had a heavy Irish accent, and claimed to be from Facebook Security in Dublin, Ireland.
According to the woman, Facebook Security had found a post in which this 24-year-old was threatening to harm herself. She then forwarded the report to the local sheriff’s department, and reached out to McAninch.
McAninch was a 33-year veteran dispatcher, but he had never received a call quite like this before. Understandably, he was initially skeptical.
“How do I know it’s not a scam?” McAninch said, according to Liftable.
“You’re going to have to trust me,” the Irish woman told him, according to Liftable.
What McAninch did not know was that the call center for Facebook Security, an arm of Facebook’s online monitoring service, was based in Dublin, Ireland, and that Facebook Security monitors threads and posts for troubling rhetoric.
But without this knowledge McAninch had no way of knowing if the report was accurate. Still, he decided to trust the person on the other end of the line.
The Irish woman gave him the alleged victim’s information, which he used to track down the 24-year-old. McAninch then relayed the information to the nearest sheriff’s department, which was one county over.
There was a 24-year-old woman threatening to do bodily harm to herself through a Facebook post — when McAninch tracked the victim down, that report appeared to be correct.
It turned out that the report had been correct. Sheriffs from neighboring Cattaraugus County not only were familiar with the alleged victim, but also found that she had possibly overdosed and made some superficial cuts to herself. They managed to rescue her and get her the medical attention she needed.
Still, despite his central role in potentially saving this girl’s life, McAninch is humble.
“Cases come up where we have to track people down on occasion, this one just happened to originate from Ireland,” McAninch said according to Liftable. “I just happened to answer the phone, it could’ve been any one of us.”
McAninch might have just saved the girl’s life — his colleagues consider him one of the unsung heroes of the police department.
“I’m extremely proud of the way this case was handled,” Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace told the Jamestown (NY) Post Journal. “There are a lot of unsung heroes who work in the 911 center and they help people like this every day.”
Imagine you were in McAninch’s situation for a moment, and a call originating from another continent claims that someone is in trouble and needs your help. What would you do? Trusting people on the internet is pretty difficult nowadays, but we’re just glad that McAninch was able to make the right decision.