AKRON, Ohio - An important warning after unrelenting phone scammers practically shut down a local business and literally overload their phone system.
It started with a few calls, around 10:30 a.m. Thursday, April 12th asking to speak with the same male employee at Summit Toyota in Akron.
The caller was demanding $852 for an alleged debt, and wanted the funds paid immediately using Visa gift cards.
The man, described as a valued employee, had no idea what they were talking about, realized it was a scam and reported it to General Manager T.J. DiSanto.
Minutes later, the entire dealership was under siege.
“All of our lines start ringing - all of them,” said General Manager T.J. DiSanto. “They kept telling us they weren't going to stop until they received the money.”
The non-stop calls, tying up all ten phone lines continued all day Thursday and all day Friday.
“They took off over the weekend,” said DiSanto. “But this went on all day Monday and Tuesday.”
DiSanto reported the harassing calls to the FBI, local police, a private security company, and their IT department, who then called every phone company, but nothing could be done.
“Because they were robo-dialing, using phone numbers from all over the country, there was no way to pinpoint their access point,” said DiSanto.
The calls were not only annoying but also majorly interfering with business.
A mass email was sent out to all of their long-standing customers, but there’s no way to know how many new customers were lost or would be lost.
“We had no idea when it was going to end,” said DiSanto.
Finally on Wednesday the calls stopped.
DiSanto isn’t sure if the scammer gave up or if the phone company finally located them overseas and blocked them.
DiSanto’s now sharing his ordeal in an effort to help others.
He says be sure to discuss these types of scams with employees at work or family members at home. Talk about how to handle them.
Investigators who helped DiSanto and called it one of the most aggressive cases they’ve seen. They offered us these tips:
- Be wary of unsolicited offers or claims of unpaid debt; especially when there is threatening language.
- Never pay them, or provide personal or credit information.
- Don’t even engage in conversation unless it’s asking for their name and information.
- Hang up and report them immediately to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3.
Fortunately, the dealership's computer system was never hacked and their records were never comprised, but DiSanto hopes their ordeal serves as a wake up call to everyone..
“If it happens to them hangup the phone, don’t engage them in any way,” said DiSanto. “Just a simple conversation can give them hope and they keep cracking the door open further.”