NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Metro Nashville Police Department has received multiple reports of a scam targeting people across Middle Tennessee, including a couple who is out $20,000 after scammers convinced them to pay up or go to jail.
“We were paying a bail bond, basically, we would pay it in the kiosk and it shows up on their computer, and then we go in and then we show that we’re in compliance, but it was all a lie,” said Louie Weaver.
Like most scams, this one started on the phone, first with a call, and then a text message came through to Weaver’s wife.
“She came running up the stairs and goes, ‘Honey, get your clothes on fast. We have to go bail me out of jail before I get arrested,'” the Nashville man recalled.
The text message included a photo of a summons document, with a case number, charges, and a bail amount. All of it was fake.
“I thought it was a ‘scammaro’ from the beginning and then I let it go. She fact-checked the number that was calling and took my phone and called the number and it rang into the police department! Now, how did they get that, the code with the Nashville’s Sherriff’s Department?” questioned Weaver.
The people on the other line of the phone reportedly claimed to be with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, saying Weaver’s wife was being accused his wife of committing fraud related to a loan she had taken out for her business during the COVID-19 pandemic. The scammers knew the family address and how much the loan was for, which made them believe the documents were real.
“It wouldn’t end. I mean, she was a nervous wreck…and then eventually we just depleted our whole business account trying to keep her out of jail, and this person was fictitious anyway,” Weaver explained.
Weaver admitted the entire thing sounded sketchy, but while on the phone, the scammers threatened jail time if the family didn’t comply.
“‘Well if you don’t do it, then we’re just going to come and find you and you’ll have to go to jail for two days,'” Weaver described. “And she was crying, she was out of her mind, so I said, ‘Okay, we’ll put $7,250.'”
It started with a little more than $7,000 in cash. The paperwork sent to the Weavers told them to go to a Bitcoin kiosk and upload the money. After they complied, the scammers told them it wasn’t enough money and demanded more. For nearly six hours, the couple drove around to different banks, making sure they did everything they could to avoid the threatened jail time.
“They just told me, ‘We’ve been scammed,’ and I said, ‘Okay,’ and they said, ‘To about $20,000,'” recalled Bart Smith, the Weavers’ neighbor.
Smith said he received a phone call from the couple and immediately knew something was wrong.
“The first red flag was that they texted the summons. They wouldn’t do that typically, or at all, and then the second one was paying a fine in cash at a crypto booth,” he explained. “The problem is these people weren’t just the scammers that people are used to that call you up and perhaps they’re abroad and then just say, ‘Pay this,’ and hope they get lucky. These people weren’t calling many people, they were calling a few people that they carefully researched.”
Weaver and his wife didn’t find out it was a scam until they went directly to Metro police, asking if they should be concerned. Then, they filed a police report in hopes of getting some of their money back.
Authorities issued a reminder to community members that law enforcement will never ask for payments by phone. If you are ever in doubt, you are encouraged going to the agency itself and verify the information.