Knoxville widow questions collections call

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A Knoxville widow believes she was about to be scammed when a caller said her late husband owed a big bill. The call supposedly came from a collection agency, and she gave them her personal banking information.

Scammers continue to come up with creative ways to get into people’s bank accounts. When you write a check, your account and routing numbers are no secret, but scammers go after easy targets, says the Federal Trade Commission. Many victims of clever scams are seniors. It’s a form of elderly financial exploitation.

Marilyn, who did not want her last name published, says her husband David died nearly four years ago. At 66, she has a limited income of $757 a month from Social Security. She received a frightening call last week from someone claiming he was from a collection agency.

“Said that my husband owed $1,000 to Home Depot. If I didn’t pay them the $1,000, a hundred dollars a month, they were going to come and take my car away from me. I told him, ‘You can’t take my car.’ He said, ‘I can take your car whenever I want to.’ I called Home Depot and all these places. Neither Home Depot nor anybody has anything on me,” Marilyn said.

It was at this point that the guy on the phone started to negotiate a lower monthly payment.

“He said, ‘Can you pay me $50 a month?’ I said I’ll try because he had me so scared. He said, ‘I need your routing number to your account and your account number, or I will come and get your car.’

Marilyn gave him the numbers.

Bank account numbers are not secret. Sharing your account with a legitimate business you know and trust is okay. It is one of the most common ways for companies to receive funds by way of electronic transfer. 

However, identity thieves armed with this information can begin stealing money and eventually drain your bank account.

“I panicked. I ran over to the bank. I asked had they ever heard of these people. They said no,” Marilyn said.

To be on the safe side, she had checking account changed.

“Don’t give out your account numbers to anyone.  Don’t even answer the phone, if you don’t know the number. If it’s a number you don’t recognize don’t answer it,” she said.

Beginning Thursday on WATE 6 On Your Side in a special series of reports called “Breaking the Silence: Elder Abuse Awareness,” Don Dare and Lori Tucker will explain why elder abuse is a big problem, what’s being done to fight it, and who is on the front line to break the silence.

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