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Scammers targeting Alabama businesses ask to use the phone, then reroute calls

Posted at 10:45 AM, Jun 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-13 10:45:37-04

DECATUR, Ala. – A team of scammers has hit several pizza business locations in the Tennessee Valley, posing as someone who walks into the store and asks to use the phone to make an emergency call.

Marco's Pizza in Decatur and Madison have been victims of this scam in the past week.

Shortly after the unknown scammer leaves, the business realizes the phones aren't ringing -- definitely strange for the usual dinner rush.

When management called the phone company, they learned that their phone line had been rerouted to an untraceable number.

"One of our stores was compromised for a short period of time," explained Jerry Schoo, the owner of Marco's in Decatur. "They did get a couple of customers to speak to. They placed orders with the scammers, the scammers got their credit card information."

Police say when the scammer gets a hold of the phone, they dial a special number to reroute calls. So, when future customers call to make an order, the scammers pose as the business and collect credit card information.

"You know, we think the best out of people, and things like that happen," Schoo said.

As soon as Marco's was aware of the situation they made sure their customers were both financially reimbursed and protected. The company has also taken steps with the phone company to prevent this from happening in the future, but they want to warn other businesses.

"I've got several people that have been in this industry for a long time, and they've never seen it either," Schoo said. "It's a new one on all of us."

Marco's Pizza's recommendation to similar businesses -- and their new plan moving forward -- is that if any non-employee needs to use the phone, management will get involved and will insert the phone number into the phone for that person. That way a special code can't be used to potentially compromise the phone system.

WHNT has been told that this scam has been attempted at pizza locations in both north Alabama and central Tennessee. Businesses can call their phone service provider to make sure their phones aren't vulnerable.