You've probably heard of the so-called jury scam. It's been around for years. Yet, people keep falling for it and end up sending money to crooks who usually are somewhere overseas. However, it seems prison inmates here in the U.S. are also making these calls and scamming folks out of their hard-earned money.
Some folks in Gallatin are getting phone messages that say, "This is Lt. Tad Johnson from the Sumner County Sheriff's Department. Ma'am, I'm calling about a situation that's occurred that needs your immediate attention as soon as possible."
But there is no Lt. Tad Johnson. And no real "situation."
Gallatin Police Investigator James Kemp told NewsChannel 5 Investigates, "They're advising individuals over the phone that they have missed a grand jury subpoena or summons and there's a warrant out for their arrest."
It's an old scam with a new twist. For years, these calls have come from bad guys in other countries.
But Gallatin detective Kemp managed to trace the calls that are coming into Sumner County and found they're coming from a prison in Georgia.
"You think it's an actual inmate who is making these calls?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked him.
"I believe it is," he replied.
Earlier this year, federal authorities charged more than 50 Georgia inmates and prison employees, accusing them of running a massive fraud and corruption scheme. Among the accusations, that guards were allowing cell phones to be smuggled in that inmates were then using to run these so-called jury scams
"They don't know he's calling from Georgia. With a 615 area code number, it looks like he's calling from right here in Middle Tennessee," Kemp explained about the calls folks in Sumner County are getting.
He said the still unidentified inmate seems to be working with at least one other person, a woman, on the outside. Together, they've already convinced at least two people in Sumner County to send them thousands of dollars to avoid being thrown in jail.
Teresa Wilson is one of those people.
"And, he said yes, we have a bench warrant for your arrest," she recalled of her conversation with the man.
WIlson said he called her last week and told her to go to the store and buy $3,000 in green dot money cards. He said police were outside her office waiting to arrest her.
"I felt very scared. And, I never get scared of anything, but this man scared me," she shared.
Wilson said she felt she had no choice. And once she had the cards, the man told her to scratch off the back and read him the numbers.
"And within seconds, the victim's out the money and there's no way of recovering it," detective Kemp explained.
He said other middle Tennessee cities including Murfreesboro and Hendersonville have also been targeted by inmates in Georgia. And the most effective way to stop them, he said, is don't take their calls.
Police say they will never call and ask for money or personal information. And if you get a call from someone claiming to work in law enforcement asking for either, simply hang up.