New Phone Scam Offers Easy Payments

Latest phone scams target citation recipients and TV subscribers: Internet Scambusters #593

One way or another, phone scam tricksters will find you and try to steal your money or your ID — and probably both.

In this week’s Snippets issue we explain how they pretend to simplify payment processes, provide discounts or simply capitalize on misdialed numbers.

Plus, our News Alert of the Week features a new scam that’s sweeping Facebook and has already claimed 2 million victims.

Let’s get started…

New Phone Scam Offers Easy Payment

It’s hard to think of what life would be like without cell phones or land lines, but, for sure, we wouldn’t miss all those phone scams that plague our daily lives.

That’s the common theme for this week’s Snippets issue, starting with a cunning trick crooks are using to target people who’ve been cited for traffic violations and some other offenses.

Like all the most effective scams, this one is remarkably simple.

The crooks simply comb publicly available court lists and other public records to identify the names of those who’ve been fined.

Then they call them and either invite or insist that the fine is paid over the phone, immediately.

The caller claims to be from a company hired by the local courthouse to simplify the payment process.

Victims are asked to provide payment card information, which means they’re immediately out by the amount of the fine.

But, of course, the crooks also have their card details which points to a high likelihood of identity theft.

Action: As far as we know, no law enforcement or legal authorities use an outside firm to collect fines over the phone.

Never give your card details to someone on an incoming call. You have no way of knowing they are who they say they are.

And, by the way, watch out for calls alleging a red light violation, again asking you to pay over the phone or via a money wire.

They’re fake. Police don’t notify you of violations over the phone.

TV Discount Call

Another fake phone call comes from crooks posing as your TV service provider, offering a great discount deal if you pay upfront for the next three months’ subscription.

This scams starts out as what seems to be a promotional telesales call in which the crook offers a free gift (an Amazon Kindle reader in one case) in return for the recipient agreeing to make quarterly payments in advance.

They also offer a discount of up to 50% if the customer agrees to pay immediately by card over the phone.

Action: This scam isn’t unique to TV companies. It has also been used by crooks posing as utility company reps.

Again, never agree to deals like this or give card details to an incoming caller.

Don’t be fooled by caller ID seeming to confirm the call is from your TV company. Caller ID is easy to fake.

Note also that satellite TV company Dish has recently issued a warning about bogus reps calling and offering discounted upgrades that have to be paid for with prepaid Green Dot debit cards.

“If you receive a call requesting a payment in exchange for a promotion or upgrade, do not provide any information and disconnect the call,” the company says.

Veterans Targeted

Another sneaky phone trick targets veterans who accidentally dial the wrong phone number when calling the VA National Call Center or the VA GI Bill Call Center.

According to the Federal Times news service, a marketing firm is using numbers similar to those of the VA centers.

Vets who accidentally dial this number are offered a $100 Walmart gift card for providing personal financial information.

Of course, victims never receive the gift card but they may lose a lot more after giving away their card details.

Action: The VA says it never asks for card or banking information over the phone.

Make sure you dial the correct number (800-827-1000 for the National Call Center and 888-442-4551 for the GI Bill Call Center).

Misdialing is a common problem. See Careless Dialing Could Cost You Money from the Federal Trade Commission.

Verizon Refund Warning

Staying with our phone scam theme, service provider Verizon recently warned that scammers were using bogus caller ID to spoof a genuine Verizon customer support number, offering a $54 refund for bill overpayments.

The message came as a robocall or voicemail.

Victims were directed to a realistic-looking website where they were asked for their Verizon account details as well as their credit card numbers. In other words, this was a phishing attempt.

The particular site that sparked the alert has now been closed down but variations of the tactic no doubt will crop up again, and with other service providers.

Verizon also has a long page full of email phishing scams — everything from refund notifications and discount offers, through blocked accounts to past due notices.

Action: When you need to visit your phone service provider online to check your account, independently find their web address — don’t use provided links.

News Alert of the Week: An estimated 2 million computers have been infected by malware recently after victims clicked on a Facebook posting that purported to direct them to compromising photos of a friend.

The clever scam includes the name and profile photo of the friend, and the message says something like “(Friend’s name) private video” or “(Friend’s name) naked video.”

Don’t fall for it.

That’s all for today — we’ll see you next week.