AUSTIN (KXAN0 - Karen Lou Smithee found out the hard way that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Smithee was apparently targeted by phone scammers who promised money for just a little effort on her part.
"They called on my cell phone and said I had been randomly picked and I could receive a $7,000 government grant," she sad after calling the KXAN Tipline when realized she'd been duped. "It sounded good to me."
- Tipline: 512-703-5255
As it turned out, there was a catch a catch to the deal offered by the caller.
"They wanted me to take $320 to Western Union," Smithee said, adding that she was instructed not to tell the clerk what the money was for. "Because evidently Western Union knows about this and will stop you if they know it's a scam."
She sent the money and waited for her payoff.
She's still waiting.
"They're supposed to deposit this $7,000 in your account within 15 minutes," she said. "Well, I came back to the house, the 15 minutes was up and there was no money."
When she called her supposed government grant providers back they told her because of Texas taxes they needed another $710. She got cold feet.
"On the way to Western Union, I decided that it wasn't a good idea," she said. "Something hit me, I just knew something wasn't right."
When Smitheen called them again and warned she would contact the Better Business Bureau or the news media, the numbers she had called on were blocked.
"If you've never applied for a government grant and you receive a call saying you won one, that's a huge red flag that it is a scam you want to avoid," said the BBB's Erin Rodriguez.
Ricky Wise got a similar phone proposal.
"The guy says we're from the U.S. government and you qualify for a government grant because you've had no felony convictions," he said.
Wise was told he would receive his grant money once he sent them $325. He smelled a rat.
"He never said what agency or department he was with," he said. "I never got their address because once they asked for money I cut them off because you never pay for a government grant, I knew that."
Wise got repeated calls in ensuing weeks, and finally, he had enough.
"I told him I know you're a scam, I know you're trying to rip people of," he saidf. "Do not call me again because I'll report you."
Ultimately there is no one to shield you from these scams. You must rely on your good judgment and instincts, and never send money to strangers.
Wise was fortunate. Smitheee, not so much.
"It is an embarrassment," she said/ "But I'm just out to keep one other person from sending money, I'll be happy."
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