KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knoxville Police Department is warning the Latino community of possibly international text message scams targeting the East Tennessee area.

On Tuesday afternoon in an effort to directly communicate with the Latino community, KPD shared a social media post in Spanish with a Spanish-speaking officer warning the community of the scams. The officer said several scams have been reported to KPD since the end of last year targeting members of the Latino community from unknown people asking for money and showing graphic or violent images.

“Tenga cuidado, informe estas estafas a la policía y no proporcione dinero ni información personal a fuentes no verificadas,” the officer says, which means: “Be careful, report these scams to the police and do not give money or personal information to unverified sources.”

The text messages are believed to be coming from foreign countries and utilize fear tactics to take money and personal information.

“Los estafadores usan muchas táacticas,” the officer said, which means: “The scammers use many tactics.”

The video concluded that if you receive a text message like this from scammers, call your local police agency or the Federal Trade Commission.

“Based on our investigation into these scams, they are very likely being perpetuated by individuals based out of foreign countries who are not geographically close to the individuals targeted by the scam,” Scott Erland, KPD communications manager, said. “Our PSA was intended to directly communicate with the Latino community to make them aware of this scam and warn any individuals who receive text messages of that nature not to act on the threat.”

Data from the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau indicates that Tennessee’s total Hispanic and Latino population was around 6.9%. In some East Tennessee counties, U.S. Census data shows there are caches of Hispanic and Latino populations contributing to their local economies:

  • Knox – 6% Hispanic/Latino
  • Hamblen – 14.7% Hispanic/Latino
  • Loudon – 9.8% Hispanic/Latino
  • Sevier – 8.8% Hispanic/Latino
  • Hamilton – 7.4% Hispanic/Latino
  • Rhea – 6% Hispanic/Latino
  • Jefferson – 4.4% Hispanic/Latino
  • Blount  – 4.2% Hispanic/Latino
  • Monroe – 4.2% Hispanic/Latino
  • McMinn – 4.1% Hispanic/Latino

Census data also indicates Hispanics and Latinos make up some of the larger shares of workers within the state’s top industries like agriculture, construction and services – which is also reflected nationally.