NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)– A Westchester family was hit by an unusual phone scam and the scam artists may have used social media to gather detailed information to target the victims.
“I picked up the phone and there was a guy screaming, ‘Your wife was just in a hit-and-run accident,'” Hector Martinez, the scam victim, told CBS2’s Brian Conybeare.
That’s how the kidnapping scam started for Martinez and his wife Carol Ann, who was with her mother at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco on Thursday.
The mystery caller told Martinez Carol Ann injured his nephew in the hospital parking lot and then they said, “we got your wife.”
“We are drug dealers from the Bronx and we have no insurance so we want you to pay for the medical expenses,” Martinez said he was told during a phone call.
The caller told Martinez to go to the Walmart at the Cortlandt Town Center and wire more than a thousand dollars to a relative in Puerto Rico who would pay the nephew’s medical bills. The scammer said they already started beating Carol Ann.
“There was a woman screaming hysterically, ‘Hector, Hector!’ ‘Don’t hang up the phone, otherwise we’re going to hurt your wife,’ and I was like ‘I’m gonna pay,'” Martinez said.
Martinez showed CBS2 receipts for two money transfers totaling nearly $1,300. After two hours of fearing the worst, he finally got a hold of both his wife and mother-in-law.
“I said, ‘You just been kidnapped?’ and she goes, ‘No!’ so that’s when I realized it was a scam,” the victim said.
The suspect even sent taunting texts later that same day. And what’s really terrifying the family now is how the con artist knew Carol Ann was at the hospital. It may be a case of social media stalking.
“I posted on Facebook that she was OK, the surgery went fine,” Carol Ann said.
That real-time Facebook update, along with some basic research into your name and other social media activity, can turn up a trove of information on the web, like phone numbers, addresses and more that scammers can use to target you.
“It’s easy to find this information out on the Internet unbeknownst to me! I had no idea you could find this out,” Carol Ann said.
“And now that I know it’s that easy, I’m not putting anything on the Internet anymore,” Martinez said.
Unfortunately the incident was a very frightening and expensive lesson.