On Your Side: Breaking down the ‘You’re In Trouble’ scam

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The “Grandma, I’m in trouble” hoax has been around for years; however, in 2020, scammers have changed the script a bit, telling people “you’re in trouble.”

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare spoke with a woman who received one of these calls, and it worries her that elderly people might fall for it.

There have been several calls made over the last few days, in fact. At first, the con artist had the young woman believing the story. But then, the script being read became so outlandish, it was obviously a trick.

Tracy lives with her mother and asked that we not reveal her last name. Tracy says she’s aware of scams people calling on the phone, asking for personal information, or trying to fool you to send money, but she had never received a scam call until the other day.

The electronic voice said there had been a wreck out of state and she’s “in trouble.”

“And I pressed one,” Tracy said. “That’s when the lady came on and said, they had rented the car in Texas…”

Tracy said the story was strange, in that the car wreck, a body had been found and evidence pointed to her.

“And there had been a murder in the car and that my blood was in the car. That’s when they found cocaine in the car. Then she said the law was coming to get me,” Tracy said. “…I was scared. Because I didn’t know if it was true or what. And, then she asked me did I have any cash? I told her, no. Then she said there were a bunch of credit cards, that I had stolen a bunch of credit cards.”

The scammer then made her pitch… she wanted Tracy’s complete social security number.

If you get a call or message like this, what to do?

  • If the emergency sounds outrageous, it probably is.
  • If they ask for money — don’t pay by card or wire money.
  • Report the hoax to local authorities or contact the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint

“I’ve been getting calls from the people again,” Tracy said. “Like four or five calls. And, some older folks, I’m afraid they’ll fall for it.”

To make the story seem real, scammers like the one that called Tracy claim to be an authority figure, such as a police officer. Oftentimes, these imposters insist that you keep quiet about their demand for money, to keep you from checking out their story.

But — no matter how real, urgent, or scary the demand seems, it’s a scam.

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