KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A Knoxville woman with a basic cell phone plan received a big phone bill recently. The charges included international calls which were not part of her plan that she incurred due to contact with a scammer.
Married for 53 years, Shirley, who requested her last name be withheld, says her role at home has shifted a bit. She’s become a caregiver for her husband Clyde, a retired truck driver. He’s disabled, can barely walk, and both live on a limited income.
Shirley say she entered the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes three months ago, and while the odds are long at winning the jackpot prize, Shirley believed the call she received in late January about winning big prizes was true.
“[The caller said] that we had won some gifts, real nice gifts and that he was from Publishers Clearing House,” said Shirley. “He said we won a new car and some money but we would have to pay tax on the car.”
Shirley was told the tax would be more than $800 on her winnings. She was instructed to go to Western Union and wire the money. Then, once the money was on its way, she was to call Robin Smith who she said had a strong foreign accent.
“Give us $200 dollars this morning and when we deliver the car, we’ll collect the rest,” said Shirley. She lost a grand total of $890 to the scammer.
The scam that snagged her has been around for a while, but the story isn’t over yet. Shirley said as he grew more anxious, the caller didn’t give up.
“He was on and off on my phone all day long. He kept on calling back, saying that they were working on the paperwork, getting the transfer, getting it ready to be delivered. Then, Verizon telephone company called me,” Shirley said.
The Verizon representative was wondering about calls from the 876 area code, which is in Jamaica.
“They asked me if I had been calling this number. I said no. I told them this guy had been calling me. She said don’t give them anymore money. That’s a scam,” said Shirley.
Shirley said she listened and sent no more money. She said the Verizon rep also warned her not to be shocked when her next invoice arrived. Her phone bill was $330. She normally pays $71.The bill included over $250 for international minutes plus fees associated with them, but Verizon took care of it and subtracted $254 from the bill.
Shirley and Clyde said they’re grateful to Verizon and its fraud team for alerting and helping them, but their story still isn’t over. Now targeted by scam artists, Shirley received yet another call just the other day. Knowing she had not requested any information, Shirley remained silent.
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“I didn’t say anything. Then, that’s when he said, ‘Can you hear me?'” she said.
Shirley said she was aware of the “can you hear me” scam and knew not to say “yes.”