KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — An East Tennessee woman trying to get in touch with a Knoxville-based nonprofit was given a phone number that led to a solicitor and not the group she wanted. When she called the 800 number, so-called free money was offered, but she had to pay a fee to get it.
Kathy Wiggins recently wanted to do some volunteer work with the local NAMI office, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. When Wiggins found the number online is no longer in service, she called the national NAMI office asking for a Knoxville phone number. She called it.
“Well, there was a recording to start with. It only gave me two options. Press one for your reward for having to hold for so long, or hang up,” said Wiggins.
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Believing she was calling a legitimate number, she pressed one.
“There is a lengthy hold time and you can’t get through to them right now, ‘so we are going to give you a $100 gift card to Walmart for your lengthy hold time’. Well, I said ‘I don’t want your gift card, I just want to speak to someone.’ ‘Why would you not want this free gift card?’ I said, ‘sir, I didn’t call for a gift card.’ I thought, well this is a scam, I knew right away. I said, what do I have to do to get my gift card, he said ‘we will send you this QR code to your phone, for that delivery we charge $5.95’,” said Wiggins.
Curious, WATE went to Google and entered NAMI of Knoxville. The number shown is a toll-free 800 number. We showed Wiggins a printout of the information seen on Google. She said the number show is the one she called and the number the national officer gave her as the Knoxville Area Chapter of NAMI.
When WATE called the number, we heard the following recording.
“Hello, thank you for calling. Just for calling today, you are entitled to a retail rebate of $100, Press one now for more information,” said the recording.
We then hit number one for that additional information.
“Thank you for calling, this is Kate, may I have your first and last name,” said the voice on the phone.
Wiggins was able to find the real number for NAMI Knoxville through their website.
“Unfortunately, ugliness and greed within our society today has utilized many organizations’ names and likenesses for profit,” Knoxville NAMI Office President Alison Rose said. “This is obviously the case here.”
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“NAMI Knoxville is a 501(c)3 Nonprofit, we do not ask anyone for money as our services are free and provided by those kind and generous enough to volunteer their time,” Rose said.
The correct number for NAMI Knoxville is 865-214-7813 or go to the group’s website at namiknox.org.
“NAMI Knoxville is grateful to Miss Kathy for highlighting this issue and sharing what to watch for and how to access help,” said Rose.
Wiggins did not fall for the scam and she’s gotten through to the correct number.
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NAMI Knoxville does not have a current or active Facebook account, or a physical office at this time. The organization said if you know of someone struggling with mental illness and are looking for resources or assistance, call their number 865-214-7813 or visit their website at namiknox.org. Also, the organization is always looking for volunteers.