JACKSON, Tenn. — The Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South is warning Tennesseans of a new phone scam going around.
The bureau says in just West Tennessee alone, there have been seven reported cases of losses totaling over $5,000.
Nationwide, the BBB reports another 157 totaling over $100,000.
Daniel Irwin, with the BBB, says it’s all linked to a new scam using a unique device.
“These types of scams are associated with what we call ‘Emergency Scams.’ There’s some kind of hook. They’re trying to get you to give money in some way. They’re impersonating someone else, whether it be you or whether it be a family member, but they’re impersonation type scams,” Irwin said.
People are receiving a phone call where the person on the phone has the identical voice of a family member. In reality it isn’t them.
Irwin says the voices are most likely spoofed from a separate spam call.
“A lot of times when you get an unsolicited, what we call a ‘Fishing Call,’ they’re asking you questions. They’re recording you without you knowing it. That’s one way that they get your voice. You used to hear about the ‘Can you hear me scam?’” Irwin said. “Where you’d get a phone call where someone would just ask you a question: ‘Can you hear me?’ And you say ‘yes’ because you can hear them and then they hang up. That’s them recording your voice.”
Irwin says what works in the favor of the scammer is targeting emotions.
An example can be someone calling you pretending to be your child arrested and in jail, needing bond money to get out.
“The main thing that you can do is keep in mind, all of these emergency scams count on an emotional reaction,” Irwin said. “It’s really important to resist the pressure to act quickly or to react to a caller’s distress.”
If you’re unsure if you’re getting scammed or not, Irwin says it’s important to ask questions.
“Take a minute, sit back and think, ‘Is this rational? They’re calling me from a strange number. This is my best friend or this is my grandson. I’ve got his phone number. Let me call this other number real quick or let me touch base with someone to verify a story.’ If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t,” Irwin said.
“It’s well thought out. It’s part of organized crime. This is a legitimate money making scam. It is very, very hard to tell what is real and what isn’t,” Irwin said.
Irwin says this scam is mainly targeted toward elderly people, but says anyone can be a target.
He also says in most cases the victim does not get their money back if they fall to the scam.
Irwin says if you feel you were scammed, it’s important to report it so it doesn’t happen to the next person.
You can do so on bbb.org/scamtracker and contact your local police department to file a report.