Be careful before you answer your next call, that warning coming from an East Tennessee Sheriff’s Office as the newest phone scam circulates.
Investigators with the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office posting on social media that someone is pretending to be with SCSO threatening jail time if you don’t give money or bank information. Deputies say they never demand money over the phone and to not give out anything personal.
On Sunday, Charity Brown’s phone rang. She answered. The caller said he was Chief Deputy Michael Hodges with the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office and she’d missed a court date.
“Either I would cooperate with him and get to the Sheriff’s Deparment immediately or I would be arrested,” Brown said she was told.
Brown says the caller told her she was under a contact order and couldn’t hang up.
“What scares me is that I feel violated. It’s almost like I was kidnapped, but I wasn’t really kidnapped.”
To make things right, the caller wanted Brown to put $500 on a pre-paid greendot card. Brown says he had her in fear over the phone for two hours and 40 minutes.
She says things finally clicked it was a hoax when a sales clerk warned her the purchase seemed worrisome.
“I mean everything from the beginning until the end, it just seemed so real. This guy is very professional.”
WATE 6 On Your Side met with the real Chief Deputy Michael Hodges who says it’s troubling that someone would prey on innocent people.
“We don’t ever talk about warrants over the phone. As far as money, we don’t collect money for warrants,” Hodges says.
Chief Hodges says in phone scams, numbers can be localized through an app and the caller plays on fear.
“Hopefully we can come to some kind of a conclusion, find out who did this and bring them to justice.”
Investigators say the easiest thing to do is hang up before giving out anything personal.
Brown says she’s thankful she just lost time, not $500.
“Who else is going to fall for this? If I can save other people from getting in this situation. It was very stressful and one of the scariest things I’ve been through,” she says.
Thousands of new phone scams pop up every year, the Better Business Bureau has the following suggestions to use as a general rule:
- Never send money to someone you have not met face-to-face
- Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited email
- Don’t believe everything you see, even caller ID can be faked
- Don’t buy online unless the transaction is secure
- Be extremely cautious when dealing with anyone you’ve met online
- Never share personally identifiable information
- Don’t be pressured to act immediately
- Use secure, traceable transactions
- Be cautious about what you share on social media