Relay Service Phone Scam Targets Southern Arizona Businesses

December 18, 2009
For the fourth time since March, a Tucson automotive repair facility has notified BBB that they were contacted by a scammer using a relay service intended to assist persons who are hearing impaired.  

The scam can take slightly different forms, but will almost always involve the use of a stolen credit card. Here is a rundown of the various forms the scam has taken in Southern Arizona this year:

-    On December 7, BBB received an email from Flash Automotive stating that they had been contacted by a scammer over the Telecommunication Relay System (TRS). The caller told Flash Automotive that he needed to have a car towed from Chicago to Tucson, and the towing company would not accept a credit card as payment for the $3,000 tow bill.

The scammer’s proposition for Flash Automotive: he would give Flash his credit card and they would in turn wire cash to the caller to pay the towing company, while keeping a smaller sum for themselves as payment. Fortunately Flash Automotive didn’t fall for this trick and politely told the scammer to get lost.
-    In early September, BBB received a call from Jimmy’s Broadway Automotive Service after they received a call via TRS from someone who said they wanted to have their car shipped to the shop for repairs. Using the relay service, the scammer offered to pay Jimmy’s over the phone with a credit card.

However, there was catch: Jimmy’s was to forward the money from the credit card transaction to the shipping company to pay for transportation of the car. Jimmy’s told BBB that although the scammer “tried diligently” to lure them in for about 15 minutes, ultimately the call raised too many red flags and they refused the offer.

-    On June 30, BBB received a call from Canyon RV Center, in Tucson, saying they had been contacted by someone using a relay service to inquire about buying $4,000 worth of parts. The caller used the name “Lisa Marie” and claimed a Yuma address.

She emailed the business a credit card number and attempted to make arrangements for someone to pick the parts up when the order arrived. The business owner became suspicious when he noticed that a passport provided as identification by the scammer was tampered with, and refrained from ordering the parts. Several days later the bank notified him that the credit card the scammer provided was stolen.

-    In March, BBB reported a man had contacted a different Tucson auto repair facility via a relay service and told them he was going to have his car towed to their facility and he wanted to wire money directly into the business' account. When the business owner started asking questions the caller hung up.

If you receive a similar call don't provide account information to the caller, don’t order any supplies, and be wary of any of payment the caller offers. Do try to get as much information as possible and contact your BBB at 520-888-5353 or