FITCHBURG -- Kevin Holder answered the phone Wednesday afternoon to hear a chilling voice claiming his brother was hurt in the hospital.
Holder's heart started pumping.
The caller seemed to ask someone who was in the room with him what the patient's name was.
Holder, thinking he was speaking with a doctor, answered, "Peter Holder."
"Yes, we've got a Peter Holder here," the man replied.
The caller had an accent and was speaking in broken English. Holder did not recognize the voice.
Before Holder could process what was happening, the caller suddenly changed his story.
He told Holder that he was not really calling from the hospital, and that he was actually a criminal and holding his brother hostage at gunpoint. Unless Holder forked over $1,000, the caller said he would kill his brother.
"He said, 'Me and my homies have your brother tied up. He's in the basement, and we're going to shoot him,' " said an emotional Holder as he recounted the ordeal Thursday.
What Holder didn't realize was that he was the potential victim of a scam that has been popping up in the region. Fitchburg police said a similar scam was attempted on a Fitchburg couple who live on Hazel Street earlier this month.
In that case, the caller also told the couple that one of their siblings was involved in a car accident and demanded $1,000, said Sgt. Glenn Fossa. Police believe the call may have been coming from Puerto Rico.
Holder wants to make the public aware of the scam. He said it could be effective because it preys on victims' emotions. Holder said he was tricked into revealing his brother's name to the caller and said others might do the same in the heat of the moment.
"We would never want to dissuade someone from taking a call like that less than serious," said Fossa. "Take no action on your own with whatever information you do have. These are case-by-case situations that require judgment depending on the nature of the incident."
While Holder was on the phone with the supposed kidnapper, he asked the man how many tattoos his brother had in an attempt to verify if the threat was legitimate.
"I don't know," the man shot back. "He's downstairs. He's tied up."
Holder's brother has no tattoos.
While still on the phone, Holder, 59, who works as a machinist at Simonds International in Fitchburg, waved one of his co-workers, Alan Jones, over. Holder was too distraught to call the police, so Jones dialed 911 for him.
Having no way to reach his brother by phone, Holder rushed to North Middlesex Regional High School where he works as a custodian. Holder found his brother on the school's campus. He wrapped his arms around him.
He called the scam artist a "scumbag" who deserves to be "put away."
"If you ever have anyone call you and tell you one of your loved ones is in harm, it's terrible," he said. "I'd tell people not to fall prey to this. I feel somewhat humiliated by it. I hope they catch the guy and put him away."
Follow Chris Camire on Twitter @chriscamire.