Police issue cell phone scam alert

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By Carol A. Clark

Cell phone users are being asked to beware of calls from one or more persons claiming to be Verizon representatives demanding credit card information over the phone and making service disconnection threats. Los Alamos Police Cpl. Oliver Morris described the unsettling experience a local teacher reported to him.“The caller said he was from Verizon and tried to bully the caller into giving him a credit card number to pay an outstanding bill over the phone or service would be immediately disconnected,” Morris said.Morris cautions cell phone users never to give out credit card information or any personal information over the phone.“It’s a good rule of thumb to follow,” he said. “Never give out any information. Instead, we recommend asking the caller for their name and telephone number and tell them you’ll get back to them.”The situation changes quickly when the  scammer is put on the defensive. In the case of the local teacher, Morris said the number for the cell phone bully was actually a disconnected number.  Morris advises anyone receiving one of these phony calls to contact the Los Alamos police investigations division at 662-8222.Verizon details a number of scams on its website and includes tips to protect oneself. The company  has dedicated resources investigating, tracking and, where possible, resolving issues that occur as a result of scams.Through news releases, bill inserts and its web page, Verizon alerts customers and provides  information on avoiding victimization.

Jury duty scams

Besides the current credit card scam, con artists are conducting a telephone fraud involving jury duty. The individuals identify themselves as U.S. Court employees inform the intended victim they have been selected for jury duty. The caller asks to verify names and social security numbers and then asks for credit card numbers. If the request is refused, citizens are threatened with fines and prosecution.Federal courts do not request sensitive information in a telephone call, Verizon states, adding most contact between federal courts and prospective jurors is through mail. Anyone already victimized is asked to contact the FBI because it’s a crime to falsely represent a federal court official. 

Collect call scams

Collect calling is a scam where an operator asks you to accept an urgent collect call. While most customers won’t accept a call if they don’t recognize the name, some do because they worry it might be a friend or relative in trouble, Verizon states, adding that once you agree to accept the call, you are billed for the charges. The company suggest never accepting a collect call from someone unknown and if you are unsure, request the operator ask the caller a few questions to determine the identity of the caller. Often these additional questions cause the person making the call to hang up. Prisoners conduct a *72 scam in which you receive a call from an operator saying there is an inmate from a correctional facility who needs you to accept a collect call and the associated charges. Once you accept the call, the caller convinces you to hang up, dial *72 and a phone number. *72 is the code used to forward incoming calls. If you do this, the inmate starts making collect calls to your number, but the calls forward to someone he knows at the number where you forwarded the calls. That person accepts the charges but they are billed to you. Often you don’t realize this has happened until you notice your phone not ringing or you receive your bill with numerous unexpected charges. Verizon advises to never accept collect calls unless you are absolutely sure you know the person calling and never activate call forwarding for strangers.

Refund check scam

Social engineering is a scam involving someone trying to convince you they are someone they’re not, in order to collect critical personal information. A classic example is a scam Verizon saw a few years ago, involving a person who calls your home and claims to be a Verizon representative. The person says you overpaid your last bill and they need some information, which might include your social security number to process a refund check. Be suspicious and ask questions, Verizon cautions, and again, ask for a callback number. If you ever overpay your local phone bill, major telecom companies simply apply it automatically to your next bill. There’s no need to call you and process a refund.For information on other scams, access www22.verizon.com/pages/securityalerts/.