Scheme to separate you from your cash

By Nicole Bell - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HOPEWELL, VA (WWBT) – Now to a warning about a scheme aimed at separating you from your money. It involves telephone relay services and unsuspecting business owners.

People who are hearing impaired or speech disabled use a telephone relay service to send and receive phone calls. When one local cafe owner got such a call with a request for a large catering order she suspected foul play.

At Lisa's cafe in Hopewell the owner was thrilled when she got a call for a 150 sandwich order for a special event-- a sale totaling $700!

"I was like, 'oh thank God,'" said the owner, Lisa Postic.

The order came in through a telephone relay service.

"The lady on the phone said she was a TDD teletype operator for the hearing impaired," said Postic.

The order was placed and the so called hearing impaired customer tried to pay with a credit card but when Postic started asking questions things got weird.

"I asked for her name and she would never tell the operator the information to give to me," said Postic.

Then, a major red flag.

"She's like can you add an extra $750 to the bill and I'll give you a name and number to Western Union that amount of money to somebody else," said Postic.

Postic didn't fall for the flim-flam.

"I'm thinking -- hmm, that don't sound right," said Postic.

Tom Gallagher, with the Better Business Bureau, calls it a unique scheme designed to leave the unsuspecting business owner holding the bag.

"Anytime anyone wants you to send cash like that it's a scam," said Gallagher.

Gallagher also says it's likely the credit card was stolen or fake. He says using a telephone relay service to perpetrate the potential fraud is done for a reason.

"What that does is evoke sympathy out of us. It will create a little bit of trust too. It takes us off of our normal defenses," said Gallagher.

Back at the cafe Postic has a warning so you won't fall for a similar fraud.

"End the call right there and don't do it," said Postic.

It's unclear if that telephone operator was in on the scheme or not. The BBB says this type of fraud isn't limited to restaurants.

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