Fraud and Scam Alerts
Verizon is concerned about the safety of its customers.
At Verizon, we see a wide range of scams that can have a direct impact on you. We have dedicated resources working to investigate, track, and, where possible, resolve issues that occur as a result of scams. Through news releases, bill inserts and now, this new page on our corporate Web site, we can quickly alert you to current scams and immediately provide you with information on how to avoid being victimized.
Here you'll find updated information on the latest Internet and phone scams. You'll also find reports on current scams and tips on how to protect yourself.
If you'd like to alert us to something not listed or if you'd like more information, visit our Contact Us page.
As a reminder, always review your communications bill carefully. If you see any suspicious activity, call your regional Verizon office at the number listed on your bill. By working together, we can help reduce the prevalence of scams that hurt our customers and cost our industry billions of dollars each year.
Telephone Fraud Involving Jury Duty
How it works: Individuals identifying themselves as U.S. Court employees have been contacting citizens by telephone and informing them that 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 then threatened with fines and prosecution for failing to comply with jury duty.
Federal courts do not require anyone to provide any sensitive information in a telephone call, such as Social Security numbers or credit card numbers. Most contact between a federal court and a prospective juror will be through the U.S. Mail.
How to protect yourself: If you receive one of these phone calls, do not provide any personal or confidential information to these individuals. This is an attempt to steal or to use your identity by obtaining your name, Social Security number, and potentially to apply for credit or credit cards or other loans in your name.
If you have already been contacted and have already given out your personal information, please monitor your account statements and credit reports, and contact your local FBI office. It is a crime for anyone to falsely represent himself or herself as a federal court official.
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How it works: A simple scam, it continues to pop up around the country. What generally happens is 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, though, you will be billed for the charges.
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Calling Card Number Theft
How it works: Someone uses your calling card number to make their own long distance calls while you pay the bill. The theft happens in a number of ways. Someone calls posing as a representative of your phone company and asks for your calling card number for verification purposes. Another common scenario is that someone watches or listens as you punch in or read your calling card number at any pay phone.
How to protect yourself: Protect your calling card number the same way you would protect your credit card information. Verizon and other major telecom companies never need to ask you for calling card number; they already have it. If this happens, ask questions and ask for a callback number. In most cases, the caller will hang up. When dialing your card number into a pay phone, cover your actions with your body. If you suspect someone nearby is eavesdropping or watching, stop until they move away. Commit your PIN to memory; don't carry the PIN for your calling card in your wallet.
Be aware that if Verizon senses heavy and unprecedented usage on your calling card, we put a stop on the card and will call you to verify the usage. We will issue you another card number and you can begin using it right away. You will not be responsible for fraudulent charges. If your calling card is ever lost or stolen, report it immediately.
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Third Number Billing
How it works: You receive a call from an operator asking you if the charges for a call being placed by someone you know can be placed on your phone bill. This is known as third-party billing. Often, the operator will repeat a persuasive argument from the third-party and try to convince you the person is in trouble. If you accept the third-party charges, you will find the charges on your bill.
How 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.
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How it works: People will use a variety of methods to convince you to give up personal information such as Social Security number, credit card numbers, calling card numbers, bank account numbers, etc. Using this information, criminals can pose as you and commit a number of crimes. This will cost you a considerable amount of money and time as you try to restore your credit rating and damaged financial situation. The attempt can occur by way of a phone call from someone masquerading as a legitimate business. It might come in the form of a letter or 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.
How to protect yourself: In general, closely guard all of your personal information. Unless you are absolutely certain you know the person or business you're talking or corresponding with, be suspicious, ask questions, and ask for callback information. Be very careful with the documents you place in your trash. Shred or rip into tiny pieces any credit card applications or credit cards you're not interested in, before you put them in the garbage. Another good idea is to obtain a free credit report annually through one or more of the major credit bureaus.
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Credit Card Number Theft
How it works: Similar to other schemes, this is a scam designed to convince you to give up your credit card number over the phone or via email. This allows an unauthorized person to use your card and run up illegal charges. Usually, you will receive a phone call or email from someone masquerading as a representative from a legitimate company you might normally do business with. The person will try to convince you they need your credit card number to check your account.
How to protect yourself: Treat your credit card and your credit card numbers like they were cash. Be suspicious and ask lots of questions; just hang up or don't respond to the email. Most legitimate companies do not need your credit card number; they already have it. The only time you should provide your credit card number is when you are actually buying something from a trusted company. Also, remember to check your credit annually through one or more of the major credit bureaus.
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*72 Prison Scam
How it works: 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 your phone, dial in *72 and another phone number. * 72 is the code used to forward your incoming calls to another number, if you have call forwarding service or if it's available on a per-use basis in your local exchange. If you do this, the inmate will then make additional collect calls to your number, but the calls will be forwarded to someone the inmate 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.
How 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.
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PBX/Voice Mail Compromising
How it works: A PBX -- or Private Branch Exchange -- is a piece of equipment at a business which serves a number of phone extensions within the business, providing capabilities, including in-house calling, call transfers, call forwarding, and voice mail. Often the equipment has the capability for remote access to allow a technician at an off-site location to make changes or upgrades. A fraudster will 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 and create mischief.
How 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.
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9-0 # Scam
How it works: This is a type of fraud that preys on businesses that use PBX systems or other types of telecommunication systems where you have to dial "9" to get an outside line to make a call. The people attempting the scam will call the main number at a business and identify themselves as working for the phone company. To perform a system check, the person 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 scam artist with access to the outside line. They then make fraudulent long distance calls that are billed to the business.
How to protect yourself: Legitimate major telecom companies don't have to dial into a PBX or phone system to perform such a check. Just hang up or ask pointed questions, including requesting a callback number. Most of the time, the scam artist hangs up and moves on to someone else rather than answering your question.
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How it works: Slamming is an industry term for an unauthorized change in your choice of long distance company. Often this is accomplished when someone tries to sell you long distance service or you sign a piece of paper for a contest or other marketing promotion, without checking the fine print. Often your endorsement on a small prize check serves as the authorizing signature. The long distance company then tells your local phone provider they have formal authorization to switch you from your current long distance company. Cramming is similar but involves a company placing an unauthorized miscellaneous charge somewhere on your phone bill. This could involve a charge for a voice mail service, Internet access services, or other service charges.
How 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. Perhaps most important, check all details on your phone bill regularly. If you see a suspicious charge, be aware that the company that placed the charge on your bill is supposed to provide contact information. Call and ask them about the charge. If you cannot resolve the situation and you didn't authorize the charge, contact the business office for your local phone company. Most local companies allow you to place a "freeze" on your long distance choice and overall phone bill, requiring specific authorization from you before a new charge is added or the long distance provider is changed. You can also block third party billing to your Verizon bill. For more information, visit verizon.com/blocking.
Settlement of class action lawsuit alleging cramming by third parties who bill through Verizon If you received a third-party charge on your Verizon bill between April 27, 2005 and February 28, 2012, visit www.verizonthirdpartybillingsettlement.com or call 1-877-772-6219 to see if you are eligible to receive a refund of cramming charges that you paid.
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How it works: This is a general term that involves someone trying to convince you that they are someone they're not, in order to collect critical personal information from you. 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 phone bill and they need some information from you -- which might include your Social Security number -- to process a refund check.
How to protect yourself: Be suspicious and ask questions. 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.
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How it works: You receive an email that is made to look as though it comes from a legitimate company you normally do business with. The email, for example, might tell you that some sort of service normally provided to you is due to expire soon. The email directs you to a phony Web site made to look like the site of the company you do business with. Once there, you are asked to provide personal information -- such as a credit card or Social Security number -- so that your service can be continued.
How to protect yourself: First clue: 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 -- via phone or email -- and ask them to verify the request. The scam can be tough to detect since many of the criminals involved in phishing design Web sites that are nearly identical to a real company's Web site.
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How it works: This is perhaps one of the most prevalent scams on the Internet today. When you visit a Web site, you'll often see pop-up ads that ask you various questions and offer you a variety of services. To receive them, all you have to do is select "yes" on one or more ads. If you haven't read the fine print, however, you can unwittingly be agreeing to have software downloaded to your modem, which then instructs your modem to make long distance calls to overseas pay-per-call services. These calls can result in hundreds of dollars in charges. This usually impacts dial-up customers, rather than broadband customers. Often you don't know this has happened until you receive your next phone bill.
How to protect yourself: If you are interested in services offered by a pop-up ad, read the fine print closely before you select "yes". Unplug your dial-up phone line from your modem when you're not using it or place a long distance or international call block service on the line you use for dial-up Internet access. If you do see unexpected high charges to exotic locations on your phone bill, call your local or long distance phone company immediately and ask them to investigate.
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How it works: Under the scam, you might receive an email, page, or cell-phone 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.
How 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.
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Overseas Money Transfer Scam
How it works: This falls under the heading of "if it's too good to be true, it is." 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.
How to protect yourself: Ignore the email. Hit the delete button. It is too good to be true.
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Worms, Viruses and Other Malicious Programs
Customers need to be aware that there are computer worms, viruses and other malicious programs that are transmitted through the Internet and can infect their computers. These malicious programs can cause serious harm to customers, such as destruction of data and theft of personal information. A good way for customers to reduce the chance that their computers will be infected or damaged by these harmful programs is by keeping their anti-virus software up-to-date and installing patches recommended by the operating system vendor (e.g., Windows XP) and other suppliers for the software on their computers.
Verizon recently learned that two computer worms, "Zeus" and "Limbo", are capable of stealing private information from customers who have not adequately protected their computers. When they are active on a particular user computer, these worms are able to capture data transmitted to and from the user computer and commercial Web sites and even the actual keystrokes the user makes as they are typing on the keyboard. The worm then periodically sends the captured information from the user computer to a location where it can be retrieved by a hacker. The captured information may include user names and passwords and could allow the hacker to log in and do business as the victim customer. All of this occurs without the consumer's or the Web site operator's knowledge.
Neither the verizon.com nor most other Web sites are the cause of this malicious activity. However, we are taking proactive steps to help protect our customers who visit our site. When we have evidence that one of our customer's computers may have fallen prey to one of these viruses, our practice is to disable the user account and notify the customer. In this situation, when an affected customer tries to re-enter the site, a message will be displayed explaining how to contact Verizon to get additional details on the issue and re-establish access.
Frequently Asked Questions
If this wasn't a problem with Verizon's site or Verizon's network, how do you know about it? How was my account identified as part of this incident?
A third party security company presented us with information they picked up using virus scanning and analysis technology. Once we verified that information pertained to actual verizon.com users, we acted as expeditiously as possible to disable online access to those accounts and prepare customer notifications.
How can I protect my computer?
While no solution is perfect, there are a number of ways to protect your computer from unwanted intrusions such as viruses, spyware and attacks by hackers. For example, firewall software creates a protective barrier between your computer and the Internet to help prevent unauthorized access into your computer. Anti-virus and anti-spyware software helps protect your computer from programs that might cause damage or access information on your computer without your knowledge, by detecting and removing viruses and spyware. These and other tools for protecting your computer are readily available in the marketplace from us, if you are a verizon.net (Verizon Online) subscriber, or others. It is important to keep the software you use to protect your computer updated and you should scan your computer frequently for viruses, spyware and other threats.
If one of these worms gained access to my computer, what specific Verizon account information might have been stolen from me?
We believe the worms could have collected anything that you typed in at the computer you were using once you navigated to the verizon.com site, including your user name and password, and any changes you might have made to your account information. [It may have also captured information sent by the verizon.com Web site after it was received by your computer.]
Verizon.com and other Verizon sites that collect sensitive personal information are secured and information traveling from those sites to our systems does so through a safe, encrypted communication link and is not available to hackers. Once information is on your computer, or is typed on the computer keyboard, that information can be secretly stolen by the worms described above.
I understand that someone out there may have information sufficient to access my account on verizon.com. What is Verizon doing to make sure my account is protected in the future?
Verizon has disabled access to the online accounts we identified using the information we received from the security vendor. We strongly urge you to "clean" your computer of any viruses and to protect it as described above before you re-establish access to your account.
Please note that Verizon changed its online account registration process in December of 2007. Account registration now requires a unique pin that is typically provided via mail to the customer's address of record or via telephone to the customer's telephone number of record.
I am worried about someone stealing my identity. What should I do?
The Federal Trade Commission provides comprehensive information and advice about identity theft at their Web site: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/
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To learn more about Internet and email scams, visit our Verizon Online Safety & Security site.