COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Midlands couple says someone scammed them by threatening to put them in jail if they didn't pay an outstanding debt. Since our story aired, the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs has been flooded with calls about similar scams. We have also received calls from people saying they have received similar calls.
Shannon White watched Wednesday's story in shock, and says after hearing the alleged scammer's voice, she was sure the same man has been calling her since June.
"At first I was scared and I did get upset," said White, who could not believe the phone called she received four months ago.
"He was looking for money, but he would not tell me at that time how much money, what money I owed him and he said I had 24 hours to come up with that money or he was going to have me arrested," described White.
White says the man on the other end told her he was with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation from Florida. What was even more scary, she says, was that instead of him asking for her information, he already had some of it. "He told me, at the time it was my mother's address, he listed off the last four of my social," said White.
That's when she says he told her he needed her bank information, "which I would not give him," added White.
Her story mirrors that of an Irmo couple we spoke to on Wednesday. In their case, the woman gave the caller her bank information, but her skeptical husband closed the account before the alleged scammer got the money. "They had her really scared that she was going to jail," said the woman's husband.
White says the caller tried a similar tactic with her. He called her job and talked to her boss. "He also then proceeded to tell her that he had the building surrounded with FBI agents, to send me out, that I had ties to al Qaeda," said White.
"They were the victim of an unfortunately common scam that we're seeing more and more of," said Carrie Grube-Lybaerker of the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs.
"We have to be a little proactive and guard our information," said Garbe-Lybarker, who says there are some things you need to know about scammers.
First, real debt collectors don't make threats because it's against the law. Also, your wages cannot be garnished and you cannot go to jail because of unpaid credit card debt. "Those are more likely than not, just tactics to try and get you to respond and to respond in the way that the scam artist wants you to, by making a payment," said Lubarker.
Lybarker says don't be afraid to hang up if you think you're being scammed because a legitimate collection agency will contact you in writing if they can't reach you by phone. "You don't have to be a victim in your own home, on your phone and listen to the harassment," said Lybarker.
After hanging up, you can block the number or have your number changed. If your personal information is compromised, you can get a fraud alert or put a freeze on your credit report. Both free services help prevent someone from opening a new account in your name.
Lybarker says contacting SCDCA is the only way scammers can be caught although stopping them all together is difficult. "Often times scam artists are going to perpetuate the scam until someone stops them," said Lybarker.
Something both families hope happens soon. "Eventually I hop these people get caught," said White.
The families we talked to are lucky because they did not lose any money. Both cases are still under investigation.
The bottom line is that there is no way to end scamming. You just have to protect your personal information. Guard your account information and Social Security number, and always call Consumer Affairs if you think you've been contacted by a scammer.