Most scams are not new, but just variations on old tried and true scams. In fact, the Nigerian letter of today traces its origin to a similar type of scam that was done in the 1500s when it was called the Spanish Prisoner scam. So it is with an old scam that has been having a recent revival. This scam involves a telephone call informing the person answering the phone that his or her spouse has been kidnapped and if they do not respond by wiring money right away, his or her spouse will be killed. A typical scenario often involves the story that the person being held was kidnapped following a motor vehicle accident in which the missing spouse was responsible for damage to the caller’s car or motorcycle. Often the ransom demanded is only a few thousand dollars. In one recent case, a woman in Newton, Massachusetts was told by a screaming caller that if $2,000 was not immediately wired to the kidnapper they would kill her husband. The woman responded by telling the scammers, “OK, kill him.” In this case, it was not a callous wife, but rather a woman who knew that her husband was working out at a nearby gym at the time.
Always be skeptical if you receive such a call. Never wire money to anyone for anything unless you are totally convinced that what you are doing is legitimate because unlike paying for anything with a credit card, once your wired funds have been sent, they are impossible to get back. As for someone calling about an alleged kidnapping, call your “kidnapped” relative before responding to any kind of telephone call. You also could ask the kidnapper to describe your relative as well as provide information, such as his or her birth date, which could be found on a driver’s license.