MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – Murfreesboro police are warning residents about a phone scam from callers pretending to be with Mexican cartels and threatening to harm residents and their families.

Police say the scammers are representing themselves as members of different Mexican cartels and will typically call or send threatening text messages with gruesome photos of dismembered body parts to scare residents into sending money or be killed.

The messages are mostly written in Spanish, according to police.

The callers tell their targets to send money via banking apps, gift cards or other forms of non-traceable transfers.

“We have no reason to believe that the callers are actually associated with any known cartel,” said CID Sergeant/Detective Sean Garrison. “However, they are causing fear with their fraud attempts. This is not a new scam, but it is the first time we have seen it locally.”

Police say so far, at least four Murfreesboro residents have been targeted.

In one recent case, a man was talking with a woman online who began asking for money. When he refused, he got a text message from a man claiming to be with the CJNG cartel. The caller told the man he wasted the woman’s time and threatened to kill him and his family if he didn’t send $3,000.

Two more men also sent threats to the victim, one claiming to be with the Sinaloa cartel.

The victim sent $1,000 through a banking app and the caller tried to convince the victim to wire transfer more money, but the victim called police instead.

Three other victims also filed police reports and did not send money to the scammers.

As a precaution, police say they have placed a special watch on the four victims’ homes. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be with a Mexican cartel and demanding money, you should do the following:

  • Don’t panic
  • Hang up and block the phone number
  • Do not reply to the threatening text messages
  • Call police

Anyone with information is asked to call the CID Fraud Division at 615-893-2717.