Kidnapping scheme targets Somerset couple

SOMERSET, Mass. (WPRI) — A local couple is safe and sound after a phone scheme convinced them both that their spouse had been kidnapped.

On Friday morning, a Somerset woman received a phone call that explained her husband had been involved in an accident with gang members who then proceeded to break his jaw and tie him up in a basement, according to Somerset police.

The woman was told that she would have to wire hundreds of dollars to Puerto Rico if she ever wanted to see him again.

According to Chief George NcNeil of the Somerset Police Department, those conducting the scheme were able to hack into the couple’s cell phones. Therefore, it appeared as though the call came from the spouse’s number.

“It’s very elaborate because they have people in the background and they’ll have somebody scream in the background like it’s their relative,” said Chief George NcNeil of the Somerset Police Department.

After the woman wired the money, she was told to wait at the Rhode Island Hospital for her husband to be dropped off.

When he never arrived, she called his number again. This time, her husband picked up.

He told her that he had been waiting for her at another location after he wired more than $1,000 to Puerto Rico.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said McNeil.

Beyond the money, police said the victims were traumatized psychologically.

“The woman was obviously upset. She was upset on the phone, when the people told her what to do she was shaking,” McNeil said.

Bottom line, McNeil said to call the police and don’t wire money to anyone.

Back in 2015, the FBI released a warning in New York concerning multiple similar incidents. They included advice on how to avoid the scheme.

Look for any possible indicators:

  • Incoming calls come from an outside area code, sometimes from Puerto Rico with area codes (787), (939) and (856)
  • Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone
  • Callers prevent you from calling or locating the “kidnapped” victim
  • Ransom money is only accepted via wire transfer service

If you are on the phone with someone who demands payment of a ransom for a kidnapped victim, the following should be considered:

  • Try to slow the situation down. Request to speak to the victim directly. Ask, “How do I know my loved one is okay?”
  • If they don’t let you speak to the victim, ask them to describe the victim or describe the vehicle they drive, if applicable.
  • Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim if they speak.
  • Attempt to call, text, or contact the victim via social media. Request that the victim call back from his or her cell phone.
  • While staying on the line with alleged kidnappers, try to call the alleged kidnap victim from another phone.
  • To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell them you are writing down the demand, or tell the caller you need time to get things moving.
  • Don’t directly challenge or argue with the caller. Keep your voice low and steady.
  • Request the kidnapped victim call back from his/her cell phone.