Frauds and Scams

Fraud can occur online and offline. Understanding types of fraud and what makes you vulnerable can help prevent you from becoming a victim. Here you'll find information on current frauds, common billing scams, phone scams and tips on how to protect yourself.

Types of fraud

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number or other confidential information to open new accounts, make purchases or get a tax refund. This can occur by way of a phone call or an email from an allegedly legitimate business or individual. It might even happen when someone searches your trash for mail containing personal information and credit card receipts. In many cases, a pre-approved credit card application gives the criminal enough information to set up a credit card in your name.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Closely guard all of your personal information. Unless you are absolutely certain you know the person or business you're talking to, be suspicious, ask questions and ask for callback information.
  • Shred all documents, credit cards and applications before placing them in the trash.
  • Check your credit annually through a major credit bureau.

Phishing emails are made to look as though they are from a legitimate company you normally do business with. The email may tell you that some sort of service normally provided to you is due to expire soon. The email directs you to a phony website and asks you to provide personal information -- such as a credit card or Social Security number -- so that your service can be continued.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Check for misspelled words in the email and closely examine the return address.
  • Unless you have pre-enrolled with a company to do business via email, be suspicious.
  • Contact the company you normally do business with and ask them to verify the request.

Social engineering is when a person convinces you they are someone they’re really not. He or she manipulates you into disclosing confidential information, such as passwords, bank account details, credit card information and more.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Be suspicious and ask questions. Ask for a callback number.
  • If you ever overpay your local phone bill, major companies simply apply it automatically to your next bill. There's no need to call and process a refund.

Computer worms, viruses and other malicious programs can destroy or steal data and personal information. Without your knowledge, hackers can use these viruses to harvest your personal information, steal your money, credit and identity. While most legitimate websites do not cause these viruses or infections, there are many websites that have been compromised without the website owner’s knowledge.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Reduce the chance that your computers will be infected by these harmful programs by keeping their anti-virus software up-to-date.
  • Install security patches and updates as recommended by the companies that created Operating System (e.g. Windows or MacOS) and other software vendors (e.g. Adobe).

Billing and money wiring scams

Credit card number theft involves a phone call or email from someone acting as a representative from a legitimate company. The caller will try to convince you that they need your credit card number to check your account. However, he or she will use this information to illegally run up charges on your card.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Treat your credit card like it is cash.
  • Be suspicious and ask lots of questions; just hang up or don't respond to the email.
  • The only time you should provide your credit card number is when you are actually buying something from a trusted company.
  • Check your credit annually through a major credit bureau.

You receive an email from someone claiming to represent a foreign government or someone formerly involved with a foreign government. The person will claim that, through a change in leadership or death, he or she has been left with a large amount of money. They will ask your help getting the money out of the country, and if you help you can receive a large share of the money. The message will go on to ask you to respond to the email with bank account information and other personal information to help set up the transfer.

Tips to protect yourself: Ignore the email. Hit the delete button. It is too good to be true.

Slamming occurs when a telephone company changes your service provider without your consent or knowledge. Slamming methods can include: “free trials,” signing up for marketing promotions without reading the fine print and offers for credit cards or giveaways.

Cramming is a form of fraud in which a company places unauthorized and miscellaneous charges on your bill. This could involve a charge for a voice mail service, Internet access services or other service charges.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Be careful about what you agree to in any sales pitch or contest over the phone or in person.
  • Read the fine print and check all details on your phone bill regularly. If you see a suspicious charge, call and ask about it.
  • Contact your local phone company to place a "freeze" on your long distance choice and overall phone bill.
  • You can also block third party billing to your Verizon bill.

If you received a third-party charge on your Verizon bill between April 27, 2005 and February 28, 2012, visit our website or call 1-877-772-6219 to see if you are eligible to receive a refund.

Third-party billing occurs when an operator calls you asking whether the charges for a call being placed by someone you know can be placed on your phone bill. Often, the operator will repeat a persuasive argument from the third-party and try to convince you that the person is in trouble. If you accept the third-party charges, you will find the charges on your bill.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Never accept the charges unless you are absolutely certain you know the person.
  • Ask questions and be suspicious. Most phone companies will allow you to place a "block" on your phone, preventing such charges from being assessed.

Common phone scams

An operator calls to inform you that an inmate is attempting to call you from a correctional facility. If you accept the call and associated charges, the inmate convinces you to hang up, dial *72 and another phone number. *72 is the code used to forward incoming calls to another number. The inmate will continue to make additional collect calls to your number, but the calls will be forwarded to someone he or she knows. These charges will be billed to you.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Never accept collect calls unless you are absolutely sure you know the person calling.
  • Never activate call forwarding unless you need to do it for your own reasons and to a number you know.

Under the 809 scam, you might receive an email or text message urgently asking you to call someone in the "809" area code or some other area code that you normally don't call. If you make the call, you may be unwittingly dialing into an expensive overseas pay-per-call service resulting in large charges being placed on your next phone bill.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • If you don't recognize the phone number or area code, don't return the call.
  • In general, don't respond to such a message in any situation unless you are absolutely sure you know the person or the number you are calling.

A 9-0# scam preys on businesses that use PBX systems or other types of telecommunication systems where you have to dial "9" to get an outside line. A fraudster will call the main number at a business and identify themselves as an employee of the phone company. To perform a system check, the caller will ask the receptionist to initiate a conference call and then press 9 plus 0, which accesses an outside line. The receptionist is then asked to hang up. Often, this leaves the caller with access to the outside line, where he or she can make fraudulent long distance calls that are billed to the business.

Tips to protect yourself: Hang up the phone or ask pointed questions, including requesting a callback number.

A person uses your calling card number to make their own calls while you pay the bill. The theft happens when someone calls posing as a representative of your phone company and asks for your calling card number for verification purposes.

How to protect yourself:

  • Protect your calling card number the same way you would protect your credit card information.
  • Commit your PIN to memory; don't carry the PIN for your calling card in your wallet.
  • Ask questions and ask for a callback number. In most cases, the caller will hang up.

You receive a call from an operator asking 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 from a friend or relative who is in trouble. Once you agree to accept the call, you will be billed for the charges.

How to protect yourself:

  • Never accept a collect call from someone you don't know.
  • If you are unsure, request that the operator ask the caller a few questions to determine the identity of the caller. Most of the time, these additional questions will cause the person making the call to hang up.

A Private Branch Exchange (PBX) is a piece of equipment at a business which enables call transfers, call forwarding, and voice mail capabilities. Often, it has the capability for remote access, allowing off-site technicians to make changes or upgrades. A fraudster can tap into the remote access function through knowledge of a password or by hacking. If they gain access, they could give themselves the capability to make long distance and other calls at your expense. They could also gain access to your voice mail system.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • If you do have a remote access feature on your PBX, turn it off.
  • Protect your passwords for the PBX and/or voice mail systems, and change them often. Always create a new and unique password after activating the equipment.
  • It is also important to regularly review all billing information and block access to such numbers as "900" services.

People -- identifying themselves as U.S. Court employees -- call to inform you that you have been selected for jury duty. The caller asks you to verify names, Social Security Numbers and credit card information. If the request is refused, he or she may threaten you with fines and prosecution for failing to comply with jury duty.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • If you receive one of these phone calls, do not provide any personal or confidential information. Federal courts do not require anyone to provide sensitive information in a telephone call
  • If you have given out your personal information, contact your local FBI office. It is a crime for anyone to falsely represent himself or herself as a federal court official.

How Verizon protects you

Protecting our customers is a priority. We have a dedicated team that constantly investigates, tracks and, where possible, resolves issues that happen as a result of scams. Through free Wireless Network Alert notifications, we proactively alert our customers about weather events and threat levels, national concerns and the disappearance of persons.

If you see any suspicious activity, contact us immediately. By working together, we can help reduce the number of scams that impact consumers every year.


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Security is on everyone’s mind these days, and that’s a good thing. As consumers and businesses continue to adopt the use of innovative technology solutions, they must also learn how to protect themselves. Read the stories below for advice, resources and tips from our experts.


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