Scams, Schemes, Swindles...
The Scams, Schemes & Swindles page serves as a central location for scam information with links to fraud and scam webpages of other State of Tennessee departments and agencies.
Common Types of Scams
Thousands of dollars in government grants could sound like a huge relief, but scammers could leave you short of money.
Using phone calls and social media, scammers are targeting people searching for financial relief with promises that they’ve been selected for a free government grants. Scammers might say “All we need is your bank account information and the funds will be transferred directly to your account,” or “We just need you to pay a registration fee to receive the grant by going to a local drug store, purchasing a $250 prepaid debit card, and calling us back with the code on the back of the card.”
Remember: Legitimate government grants do not require a fee and are not offered to individuals to cover personal expenses.
You should never your give banking account information to someone you don’t know and with whom you didn’t initiate contact. If you receive a phone call or a message like this, hang up or delete it. If you believe you’re the victim of this scam, contact your bank immediately and report it to the Federal Trade Commission.Federal Trade Commission
Home repair scams generally start with a fake contractor knocking at your door.
The scammer tells the homeowner that part of the house, such as the roof, is in bad shape and is in need of repair. Home repair scams are common after wide-spread storm damage occurs. The fake contractor will require full or a large down payment before beginning the work but will either never show up to do the work or begin working and then take off once a substantial payment is made. This leaves the homeowner needing to pay a legitimate contractor to fix and complete the repairs. Remember to always check a contractor’s license, check their references, get more than one estimate, and avoid paying in cash. To verify a contractor’s license, visit the Department of Commerce and Insurance’s license verification page at http://verify.tn.gov/. If you are approached by someone offering home repair or contractor services and you think it’s a scam, report it to your local police department, the FTC, and the Division of Consumer Affairs. Find more tips for hiring a contractor from the Division of Regulatory Boards at https://www.tn.gov/commerce/article/cont-tips-for-hiring-a-contractor.
This scam generally targets adults over the age of 65.
The scammer calls and poses as a distressed grandchild or a law enforcement agent. The grandparent is told that the grandchild is in trouble in another state or country. There is a demand for a large amount of money to pay for a lawyer or to post bail. The grandparent is told the grandchild doesn’t want anyone to know about this or is threatened that the grandchild won’t be released if they tell anyone about the situation. The scammer asks for money to be sent through wire transfer or gift cards. If you get a call like this, hang up and try to contact your grandchild or another family member to find out if the person who called for help is the person they claim to be. If you fall victim to this scam, contact your bank or the wire transfer company immediately and report the call to your local police department, the FTC, and the Division of Consumer Affairs.
IRS scams occur regularly, but increase in frequency around tax season.
The scammer typically calls or emails claiming that taxes are owed and demand immediate payment. They may threaten to sue or have you arrested if immediate payment is not received. If the scammer asks for payment in the form of a gift card, prepaid debit card, or credit card over the phone, hang up. The IRS will always initiate contact through U.S. postal mail. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be the IRS, ask for a name, badge number, and callback number. Call 1-800-366-4484 to verify the information. If you are contacted by email, don’t reply, don’t open any attachments, and don’t click any links. Forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org and delete the original. If you are contacted by an IRS scammer, report the call to the FTC, and the Division of Consumer Affairs.
An old scam is making its rounds in a new form. If you answer a phone call and are asked, “Can you hear me?” proceed with caution and avoid using a “Yes” response.
The scammer is looking for a “Yes” response to record and later claim that you verbally agreed to the sale of a product or service. This can possibly lead to charges to a credit card or an invoice for a product or service that was never requested or received. If you have already received a call like this and replied “Yes,” keep an eye on your bank and credit card statements and report the call to the FTC and the Division of Consumer Affairs.
Before donating to a charity, be sure the money is going to a good cause instead of a scammer.
Charity scams commonly pop up in response to natural disasters and current events such as the Great Smokey Mountains and Gatlinburg fires. Scammers will act like they are part of a legitimate charity and try to take advantage of your goodwill. Charity scams commonly come in the form of a phone call but can also include email, websites or social media, and text messaging. Signs of a scam include the caller refusing to disclose its mission, not telling how the donation will be used, and not providing proof if the contribution is tax deductible. Before making a donation, confirm that you’re dealing with a reputable charity through the Tennessee Division of Charitable Solicitations, Fantasy Sports and Gaming charitable organization search. If you suspect you’ve being contacted by an illegitimate charity, report the call to your local police department, the FTC, and the Division of Consumer Affairs.
State Department and Agency Scam and Fraud Information Websites
- Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, Insurance Division
- Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, Securities Division
- Tennessee Attorney General’s Office
- Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability
- Tennessee Department of Health
- Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions