Sevierville couple loses hundreds in bizarre customer service scam

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SEVIERVILLE (WATE) – A Sevierville couple lost several hundreds of dollars to a new hoax that could have cost them more. They believed they were talking with a customer service representative with Straight Talk Wireless, but that turned out not to be the case.

Straight Talk is a pay-as-you-go, prepaid wireless phone service that requires no long-term contracts, no credit checks, no activation fees and no monthly bills. Once you buy the phone, you purchase phone cards that are good for a month. Once the time on your card expires, you call the toll-free number and start again – and you don’t expect to hear anyone other than a recorded message on the line.

Brenda Hayworth has been using Straight Talk for a year. She and her fiance Richard Yarberry say they have never had a problem with the phone or refilling the $45 phone card. Hayworth said a day before the limit was about to expire, she called the number on the back of the card. To her surprise, an actual person answered the phone.

“A man came on and offered a promotion of a hundred dollars because I’ve had service with them for over a year. Then he tells me I’m also eligible for a $50 gift card, but it would be a $4.95 one time fee,” said Hayworth.

She said at that point, Yarberry handed her his debit card.

“I give them his card number. I give them his code and everything and he told me I had to talk to other people,” she said.

“They kept on and kept on with her and I grabbed the phone. I said, ‘I am the card holder. I want this stopped now,'” said Yarberry. “I told them where they could shove their promotion.”

Yarberry then hung up, but moments later, the scammer was back on the phone.

“When they called back it was a whole other number,” said Hayworth.

Realizing she had innocently given out Yarberry’s debit card and security numbers, he quickly contacted his credit union to stop the scammers. They had taken out $417. He has since canceled his old debit card and received a new one. Hayworth called Straight Talk and told a customer representative what happened.

“She said, ‘I don’t know who you talked to, but we have no promotion like that going on.’ Somebody… has had to have hacked into Straight Talk’s number,” said Hayworth.

Straight Talk does offer promotions but not as financially generous as what had been offered to Hayworth. In most promotions, you don’t pay a fee. Hayworth was charged $4.95. Be skeptical – she was offered $150 for a $45 card. If it is too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t give out your personal information.

The hoax cost the couple $417, but it could have been much worse.

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