The Chattanooga Police Department is warning residents of buy site and telephone scams and offers tips for community members to protect themselves. Recently, CPD has seen increased reporting in these scams. Unfortunately, these types of scams are very difficult to investigate due to the method of contact and the form of payment demanded from victims. The best defense is to be aware, informed, and to never give personal information to unknown callers.
Buy Site Scams
Scammers dupe consumers buying and/or selling items on sites such as eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Let Go, Offer Up, and others alike.
These scams include tricking individuals into giving other people money or information to access their banking accounts.
Scams on buy sites can be difficult to spot, but some things to look out for include the following:
- poor grammar and spelling
- significantly low price for the item(s)
- seller is in another state/country
- poor or no seller ratings
- no shipping or returns policies
When making online purchases, only pay for items using a secure payment method. Look for a URL starting with 'https' and a closed padlock symbol or use a payment provider.
- Someone calls claiming to be with EPB or other utility stating they'll cut off power/water unless a payment is sent. Callers will also try to trick people into sending them money by threatening arrest and even say a relative is in jail and money is needed in order to be bonded out. The suspects request money by wire, money gram, Western Union, Green Dot cards and most recently Google Play cards.
- Caller claims to be an agent with the SSA, DEA, or US Marshals. The caller will give a fake badge and/or case number and say they're tasked with investigating the case. The scammer will try to get money and possibly ask for a social security number. The CPD Financial Crimes Unit has received multiple reports involving scams similar to this that also includes payments through Google Play cards.
In incidents such as these and others that are similar, the Chattanooga Police Department recommends hanging up on the caller immediately. Contact the utility directly to inquire about the account. If anyone calls indicating they have kidnapped your dog, grandma, or anything considered alarming and they demand money, hang up and call police. If a caller asks for payment with prepaid cards purchased at a retail store, hang up and call police. Never give unknown callers any personal information including name, phone numbers, social security numbers, or bank account information.
Contact the Chattanooga Police Department at 423 698-2525 as soon as you receive a call like the ones described above.