WCSO warns of phone scam that references Amazon

Published 10:33 am Thursday, July 14, 2022

JONESBOROUGH — Washington County Sheriff Keith Sexton wants to warn local residents about a phone scam where the caller claims there are charges on Amazon accounts.

In this new scam, residents receive a call from someone claiming to be with Amazon. The caller states that multiple charges were made on the resident’s Amazon account. The scammer then instructs the resident to withdraw thousands of dollars in cash, purchase prepaid cards and call them back with the card numbers. In one instance a victim was instructed to deposit funds with a money transfer company via an ATM.

“So far, we know of at least $18,000 lost to this particular scam since June,” said Sheriff Sexton. “In one instance, the caller transferred the victim’s call to an individual that claimed to work for the U.S. Marshals Service. No law enforcement agency will ever call and ask you for money.”

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According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, during 2021 there were more than $1.7 billion in losses tied to phone scams targeting those over age 60. That represents a 74 percent increase over 2020. The average dollar loss per victim was $18,246, but the FBI reports that over 3,000 victims lost more than $100,000 each.

Here are a few tips from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Trade Commission to keep you safe from scam calls:

• Scammers pretend to be from an organization you know. Common scams mention things like Amazon, utility companies and even government agencies like Medicare and Social Security.

• There’s almost always a problem or a prize. The scammer will say there’s a problem with your account, or that you or a relative owe a large sum of money. Other known scams include saying you’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes, but you need to pay a fee to get your prize.

• Scammers pressure you to act immediately. There’s always a sense of urgency to a scam call because they don’t want you to hang up and verify their story. Often the pressure will include threats of arresting you and charging you with a crime like money laundering.

• They want payment in a very specific way. They’ll tell you to withdraw cash from your bank account and then purchase prepaid gift cards or send money through a transfer company.

“Never give personal financial information over the phone if you didn’t initiate the call,” warns Sheriff Sexton. “When you get a call demanding money, hang up and call local law enforcement. We can put your mind at ease, especially if the caller threatens arrest.”

If you’re a Washington County resident and receive a call like those described above, you can contact WCSO at (423) 788-1414.