MILWAUKEE (WITI/AP) — Police in southeastern Wisconsin are warning residents of a scam that causes them to call 911 unintentionally. Police Chief Ed Flynn says his department has taken "dozens" of 911 calls since 8 a.m. Friday, April 11th.
Flynn says callers are responding to texts and recorded phone calls telling them there's a problem with their debit or credit cards. The messages advise them to press 1 or dial 112 -- but when they do, they're actually calling 911.
"We just started getting a lot of calls with people saying 'gosh, why am I on 911? I got this message,'" said Chief Flynn.
Flynn says it's unclear whether the scammer is trying to overwhelm the emergency system, or somehow make money through unauthorized charges. Either way, he says anyone who receives such a message should ignore it and not press any buttons.
The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office says it's had to add staff to handle the amount of calls it's getting.
"Obviously if this happens too much it's going to delay our response to genuine emergencies," said Chief Flynn.
According to the Waukesha County Sheriff's Office, as of 12 p.m., the Waukesha County Communications Center had taken approximately 150 of these types of calls. Officials say calls into WCC have been steady, but the system is not overwhelmed, and real emergency calls are still coming in on the 911 lines appropriately.
"We're in the process of trying to understand if someone is trying to take down the 911 system or if someone has a scam that somehow enriches them by getting you to call our number," said Chief Flynn.
Officials say they believe the FBI and other governmental entities are working on the issue.
AT&T released a statement Friday evening regarding the scam, reading: It is important to note that customers of any carrier can be targeted by this or similar scams. What AT&T recommends to our customers is that they never provide personal information in response to incoming calls or text messages.
This scam is affecting mobile customers in the Southeast Wisconsin areas, including Milwaukee, Ozaukee and Waukesha counties at this time.