The Scoop on Scams


Soo Yi

This is a guest post from Soo Youn Yi-Thompson, cyber security and digital forensics at Verizon.

In these days of phishing emails, viruses that enable criminals to steal your identify, and our favorite retailers targeted with databreaches, you may be surprised to know that even the telephone in your office or your pocket is being used to commit scams and frauds. 

With decades of experience investigating communications fraud, Verizon Corporate Security has compiled a detailed list of different scams that have affected our customers. Review these scams, in which Verizon played an integral role in investigating and resolving for our customers.

In the coming months, we will provide additional articles and blog alerts to our customers and the general public – all in an effort to ensure that YOU are armed with the latest information and can protect yourself from falling victim to these or other scams.
Call-Forwarding Fraud
Todd Jones* was getting ready for the daily after-school rush of customers at his frozen yogurt shop when a young woman walked in and asked to use the store’s phone. She said her car wouldn’t start, and that she had forgotten her cellphone and needed to call a friend to come and pick her up.  Feeling sorry for her, Jones handed over the store phone and offered her some ice water while she waited for her friend to meet her. 

Jones continued working, and the woman handed back the phone, thanking him for the help. Customers started to come in and Jones didn’t think twice about helping the young woman.  (*The name of the victim has been changed.)
But when he gave the phone to the young woman, he didn’t see her dial a number that was a little longer than the standard 10-digit telephone number. She dialed *72, followed by the 10-digit number of a pre-paid cellphone that was one of several such phones in an apartment a few blocks away.   

The *72 code enables call-forwarding on the telephone line. This is a standard feature on all voice lines to enable customers to still receive their phone calls when they  areaway from their office or home. While it provides flexibility for the customer, there are scammers who have abused this service, diverting phone calls from the business and using this control to conduct financial-fraud scams. 

For instance, the scammers may order several cellphones in the business’s name. When the carrier calls the small business to confirm the large purchase, the business phone line is call-forwarded to the scammer, who poses as the business owner.

What do you do if you’ve been a victim?  Call your local law enforcement office. Law enforcement can contact Verizon to ascertain what number the line is being call-forwarded to. If you find that your phone line was call-forwarded without your permission, dial *73. That will remove the call-forwarding.

Prepaid Money Card Scam
As part of our efforts to reach out to our customers, Verizon will provide different promotions and discounts on our products and services. Please be aware that Verizon will never ask a customer to “secure” an ongoing promotion with a prepaid debit card. 

Scammers have contacted Verizon customers pretending to be Verizon FIOS employees, advising the customer of a sale to save on their FIOS service or long-distance voice service -- if they “prepay” for the service. 

The criminals advise our customers to purchase prepaid, reloadable money cards at the local convenience store, and then they request the money card account number and PIN. Our customers who have fallen victim to this scam did not realize they had been defrauded until they  were unable to reach the “caller” for a status of their special promotion order, or until they verified with Verizon that no such promotion existed.
Prepaid money cards have also been used as part of extortion scams where the criminals pretend to be with the IRS and threaten arrest and jail unless an enormous fine is paid – by using only the prepaid money cards. 

Most legitimate companies and agencies do not specifically request a prepaid money card to secure services or pay for them. Never provide personal or confidential information to an unknown or untrusted party.

If you receive a phone call like the ones described above, be suspicious. Ask lots of questions. Advise the caller/scammer that you will contact the agency or company they claim to represent to verify the need for payment. If the scammer responds by trying to bully or threaten you, then this is most likely a scam. If you have already been victim, make sure to file a report with your local police department and the prepaid card company.
Verizon strives to provide exemplary customer service and support. An important part of that support is informing and educating and our customers so that they can protect themselves from security threats and scams.