Police search for phone scam suspect

By DeeAnna Haney | Jan 12, 2014
This man is suspected to have scammed a Tennessee woman for more than $1,000.

A version of a phone scam that often originates overseas may have originated in Haywood County targeting a Tennessee family.

Waynesville police are asking for the public's help in identifying a man who they believe called a woman and tricked her into sending him more than $1,000. Lt. Chris Chandler with the Waynesville Police Department said earlier this week he received an email from the Tipton County Sheriff's Office in Tennessee, which is where the victim lives, to help solve the crime.

The woman in her 50s received a phone call from a man who provided a fake name and said he was with the Tennessee Board of Responsibility. He told the victim that if she sent more than $1,000 via Moneygram, he would get her son out of prison.

She fell for the scam but detectives in Tennessee were able to track the payment to the Waynesville Super Walmart. In most cases of this nature, the calls come from outside of the U.S., which is what makes this case unusual, Chandler said.

"We see this type of scam all the time coming from different countries, but this was a little bit of a twist on the normal scam," he said. "Somebody had to have known this woman's son was in prison and preyed on her desire to get him out of prison."

The man picked up the money at the customer service desk at the Waynesville Super WalMart on Nov. 11. Video surveillance pictures him accompanied by a woman with dark brown hair who appears to be in her 50s.

The male suspect appears to be in his late 20s, tall and skinny and wears glasses. He is pictured wearing jeans, a camouflage shirt, black jacket and black hat.

Chandler believes the man is either a resident of Haywood County or of a nearby surrounding county.

He said people should still be on the lookout for continuous phone scams. A common one involves scammers who use social media to find young people who are posting pictures while on vacation. Somehow, they obtain phone numbers for the family members and call to tell the family that their son or daughter is in jail where they are vacationing and to wire money to set them free.

Chandler urged anyone who receives phone calls asking or demanding money to be wired through Western Union or Money Gram to ignore the call.

While it's possible for police to track where the money was picked up, the companies don't track who picked it up, making these types of crimes difficult for law enforcement to solve.

The NC Attorney General's Office fields complaints for several different phone scams. In the past, scammers have posed as government officials, FBI agents and Publisher's Clearinghouse spokespeople.

According to the NC Department of Justice website, people should "be suspicious whenever anyone claiming to be with the government contacts you out of the blue to demand payment."

Telemarketing scams and tricks come in all shapes and sizes. Chandler said to always research a phone call before handing over money to a possible criminal.

Anyone with information about the Walmart suspect may call the Waynesville Police Department at 828-456-5363.