BY KEN LITTLE
Police are warning area residents about a new phone scam that involves trying to get recipients to provide their debit card number.
Local law enforcement agencies received numerous calls Thursday about the scam.
"Citizens across the town are reporting receiving fraudulent phone calls concerning their debit cards. The Greeneville Police Department is alerting the citizens not to fall for this new voice-based 'phishing' scam," Capt. Beth Dyke, chief of detectives, said in a news release.
Dyke said citizens have been getting phone calls in the form of an automated voice message alerting them that their debit cards are inactive, frozen, locked or canceled. The automated system then prompts listeners to press #1 to re-activate their card and in turn, asks for their card number and PIN.
"Caller ID does not always display a phone number. However, even if there is a number displayed, the number is invalid and not the true source of the call," Dyke said.
"The Greeneville Police Department advises citizens to hang up immediately if you receive this call and report the call to your bank as well as the Federal Trade Commission. Also, citizens should always check for any fraudulent activity on their accounts," she said.
JUST HANG UP
"These types of scammers are always looking for citizens to trust that the call is legitimate by purporting to be from real banks or agencies," Dyke said.
"That is why they [those who receive the calls] should hang up and contact their bank directly to report and always verify if there is an issue with their account."
Several area residents also contacted The Greeneville Sun on Thursday to report the scam.
Katie Fillers, of Limestone, said she is the caregiver for a 95-year-old man who received four calls from the scammers Thursday on both his cell and home phones.
"He handed me the phone and said he doesn't understand this stuff," Fillers said.
Elderly people are particularly susceptible to the scam calls, authorities said.
Fillers said she also received a call later in the day on her cell phone from the same scammers, seeking to obtain her debit card number to "reactivate" her account.
She reported it to her bank, and was told many customers received the same calls on Thursday.
One elderly woman who gave the caller her debit card number had to go to the bank and change all her account information, Fillers was told.
"It's not only
in this area; it's widespread," she said.
Fillers also contacted the Greene County Sheriff's Department.
ONE OF MANY SCAMS
The scam is one of many that regularly circulate in the area, Sheriff Steve Burns said.
Burns' advice to citizens was to the point:
"If you get a call on your phone other than the ones you receive from people you know, treat it as a suspicious call," Burns said. "Just hang up. It's your phone. You don't have to talk to them."
Burns and other law enforcement officials advise residents to be alert to possible scams and to promptly report them to police and their banks.
"I just don't want people to be taken advantage of. It's pitiful," Fillers said.
Greeneville police advise citizens to be on the lookout for this scam, and the police department offers the following advice:
* Be wary of any suspicious phone calls or text messages asking for personal or financial information.
* If asked for bank information, call your bank directly to confirm that there really is a problem.
* Don't reply to automated system prompts or text messages, and don't call the number indicated in the message.
* Never provide personal or financial information over the telephone to people you do not know.
* If you believe you are a victim of a "phishing" bank scam, call your bank immediately to place the proper blocks on your account.
* Legitimate businesses and organizations do not use automated voice messages or send texts that claim there are problems, with an account to lure those who receive the calls into revealing financial information.