NEW YORK - Verizon customers should be aware of a new wave of scams that try to pry personal information from consumers, which can lead to identity theft and other crimes.
The newest scam involves an authentic-looking e-mail from someone posing as a Verizon representative. The e-mail asks Verizon customers to update their personal billing information - such as credit-card or social security numbers -- and directs them to a Web site that is designed to look like a Verizon Web site. The phony Web site is actually operated by the scammers. The e-mail falsely warns the consumer that in order to continue receiving Verizon services, he or she must visit the fake Web site and avoid paying a "processing" fee by updating personal and account information. Verizon does not do business in this fashion, nor does the company charge consumers to update their information.
This latest wave of scams directing consumers to phony Web sites -- known as "phishing" -- has targeted a number of other industries and companies over the past year.
"Consumers should be wary of any e-mail or phone call asking that they reveal credit card or other sensitive information," said Jim Trainor, Verizon vice president-security. "Verizon customers can call us via the phone number on their bills, or they can visit our real home page - www.verizon.com or our Verizon Online home page, www.verizon.net if they have any suspicions about an e-mail, phone call or letter.
"The bottom line is there are many scam artists out there willing to do anything to trick consumers into giving up personal information or money," Trainor said. "Take the extra step and ask a question or call us if you have any doubt at all."
In issuing its warning about "phishing," Verizon also made consumers aware of several other scams:
- Pop-up ad questions - This is another relatively new issue. Verizon Online customers and other Internet access-provider consumers should carefully scrutinize what they agree to when they click on Web site pop-up ads and are asked to respond to a series of questions. In some cases, dial-up consumers who clicked "yes" to several pop-up ad questions have found their computer modems re-programmed to make expensive long-distance calls. Pop-up ads are a legitimate way of advertising on Web sites - but consumers should read the fine print and make sure they know what they're agreeing to when they click the "yes" button in response to questions in such an ad. It could be a costly mistake.
- Collect calls from unknown callers - This is a relatively old scam that has been surfacing again recently in several areas of the country. Under this scam, a caller - sometimes an inmate from a correctional facility - calls people through an operator and asks them to accept a collect call by convincing them someone they know is in jail. In the relatively rare circumstances where the called party accepts the call and associated charges, the caller hangs up and the consumer is stuck with a charge for the collect call. In some cases, the scammer stays on and tries to convince the consumer to program his or her incoming calls to be forwarded to another destination. In some cases, this can then lead to the scam artist making additional long-distance calls that are then charged to the unsuspecting consumer. The bottom line is: Never accept a collect call unless it is from someone you know or from someone whose identity you can verify.
- Callers or letter-writers masquerading as Verizon employees - Verizon has seen many different variations on this scam over the years, but the overall purpose remains the same: trick an unsuspecting consumer into giving up personal information that can be used to commit identity theft or other crimes. In one variation of this scenario, the caller identifies himself as a Verizon representative and says the consumer in his or her most recent payment to Verizon paid more than the balance due. In order to process a refund check, the scammer says, the customer should provide some personal information that can be used to speed the processing of the check. Again, Verizon does not do business in this fashion. Any overpayments are automatically credited to the next month's bill - without Verizon having to contact the consumer or the customer having to call Verizon. In general, if you receive such a phone call, ask the caller for a callback number or simply hang up and call Verizon via the business office phone number listed on your bill.
"By simply taking that one extra minute to consider whether something is a legitimate communication from a trusted source, consumers can save themselves both a lot of headaches and maybe a lot of money," Trainor said. "Usually just one extra question or taking a minute to check out an e-mail or online ad is enough for a consumer to stop the scammers dead in their tracks."
A Fortune 20 company, Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services, with approximately $68 billion in annual revenues. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world, as measured by directory titles and circulation. Verizon's international presence includes wireline and wireless communications operations and investments, primarily in the Americas and Europe. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.