Consumer Scams


Imagine... you receive a call from a telemarketer offering a great deal on telephone service. You listen to the sales pitch but make no commitment for their service. You later pick up your telephone and make a long distance call. When the bill arrives you find that the name on the top of the long distance bill page is not the company you picked as your long distance provider. Well guess what, you've just been slammed!

Slamming is the unauthorized change of a subscriber's telephone service provider without the consent of the customer. The "slammers" hope the victims do not notice the change and proceed with payment of the bill. Often times the telephone charges are at a much higher rate. Although slamming most frequently impacts long distance service, it can also occur as a change to toll or local service.

To combat slamming on residential lines, Verizon customers can request a freeze on their selected carrier. The freeze is free of charge and will assist in preventing any future unauthorized carrier changes. Just call your local Verizon office and request a freeze on your selected carrier. Once a freeze is placed on your line(s) or an account, changes can only be made at the customer's request.

Following are a few tips to prevent becoming a victim of slamming:

  • Review your monthly telephone bill for any unauthorized charges.
  • If unauthorized charges are found, contact your local Verizon office immediately.
  • When contacted by telephone with a service offer:
    • Ask for a call back number, so you are sure they are, who they say they are.
    • Ask for the information in writing. A legitimate provider will mail information to you.
  • Call your local Verizon office and request a freeze on your selected carrier to prevent any future problems.

Note: WITS2001 lines are protected from slamming.


There has been growing concern about companies that bill consumers for telecommunications services they did not order or use. This practice became known as cramming because, quite often, the charges are positioned in the customer's bill such that they may be easily overlooked.

Verizon is very concerned about the rise in complaints of this practice. Our experience has shown that a customer can be crammed as a result of just accepting a collect call, filling out a sweepstakes or raffle ticket, or responding to voice prompts in the course of placing a call.

The following tips will help customers detect cramming early and avoid becoming a victim of the practice:

Early detection:

  • Review your telephone bill thoroughly for all charges.
  • Question the telecommunications service provider (whose name and logo appear on the page of the bill) of any unfamiliar charges.
  • Notify your local telephone company if you do not recognize a charge, or are unable to resolve a disputed charge with the telecommunications service provider.
  • Do not divulge personal information, such as telephone number, credit card number or social security number on sweepstakes or raffle tickets. Quite often this information is not secure and may be used for reasons other than intended.
  • Keep a copy of any applications you fill out. You will have a reference in the event of any disputes.
  • Avoid filling out entries for contests that seem vague in nature.
  • Do not accept collect calls from unfamiliar persons.
  • Do not return calls to unfamiliar telephone numbers.
  • Beware of faxes, e-mail, voice mail and pages requesting a return call to an unfamiliar number.
  • Know the location of the area code you are dialing. If you are unfamiliar with the area code, consult your Verizon directory.
  • Avoid placing calls that have an unfamiliar dialing pattern. Local, domestic and international dialing is explained in the front of your Verizon directory.
  • Pay close attention to voice prompts on a call, they may be asking you to accept charges for the call or other services.

Note: WITS2001 lines are protected from cramming.

Identity Theft

An unsuspecting victim checks into a hotel, using a credit card for payment. The victim's credit card number is stolen, and he is contacted later by fraudsters posing as credit card company employees and asked to verify the recent card transaction. With additional information, the fraudsters steal the victim's identity and use it, along with the credit card number, for various illegal transactions.

MORAL: Be very careful of giving personal information to anyone especially in unfamiliar situations. Don't be afraid to ask questions, get a call back number, go to the front desk in person, or call the credit card company to verify a request for personal information. These actions will usually defeat the fraudster. This scam was uncovered because a victim complained to the hotel front desk about being awakened to verify his identity.

Social Engineering Fraud

"Social engineering" occurs when someone wins your confidence through smooth, convincing talk. These folks are trained to win your trust in order to extract important information about you, your job, your home, and even your family. This information is then used to commit fraudulent acts. Perpetrators of Social Engineering scams are so skilled that you become blinded by flattery, or excitement thus creating no doubt in your mind of the legitimacy of the caller. BEWARE!

Computer Nappers

Be very cautious of telephone calls alleging that you have won a computer software package or offers for free computer software. If you are not sure that you are speaking with a reputable software company, DO NOT TELL THEM YOU OWN A HOME COMPUTER!

Here's how the scam works: The caller advises that you have won a software package or offers the package free as part of a promotion. They then ask questions about your computer. They will ensure you that they need the information for software compatibility. Next they will ask when someone will be at home for delivery and acceptance of the software package. Once they have your schedule, you are susceptible to a home break-in [Source: Reprint from Communications Fraud Control Assoc., January, 1997].

Here are some tips to protect yourself and your business from this type of fraud:

  • Know that you may be a potential target for this type of fraud.
  • DO NOT provide any unnecessary information to callers unless you know who they are. Be polite and helpful, but know your limitations. When in doubt, make arrangements to call back and check company listings for phone number verification.
  • Never provide PIN or passwords to anyone.

True Name Fraud

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has advised of a scam in which unknown parties claim Gerber Baby Foods has lost a class action suit and will pay a $500 savings bond to children under 12 who were born between 1985 and 1997. Notices have appeared instructing parents to send copies of their child's birth certificate and social security number to an address to be processed. The notice promises compensation once the information is sent. Gerber, in a news release to the BBB, has announced there has been no such settlement [Source: BBB, 9-97].

This type of activity is a form of true name fraud. True name fraud occurs when someone's name and personal information is stolen. By obtaining social security numbers, birth certificates or driver's license information, a criminal has enough personal information to purchase items using your name. Purchases such as jewelry or electronic equipment can be made via an application, without a picture ID and can be sold quickly on the street. It can also be used to establish fraudulent telephone service or to add service to your account for use in a criminal manner. In any case YOU get the bill. This scam is difficult to counter because the information is true and the perpetrator becomes YOU! How can you defend yourself?

  • Be aware of the company or individual to whom you give personal information.
  • Keep a copy of applications you fill out.
  • When filling applications in malls, find a non-critical item and change it each time.
  • Avoid filling out entries for contests that seem vague.
  • Notify your account holders and law enforcement immediately if you suspect fraud.

Popular Holiday Scams

Scam Artists are especially active during holiday seasons. Verizon, AT&T and other telcos advise all consumers to be wary of a call from someone who:

  • Guarantees a credit card with a high credit limit just in time for holiday shopping, but requires an up-front payment.
  • Claims to represent a charity you are not familiar with.
  • Says you need to buy something or pay a fee to win a prize.
  • Claims you have won a prize and you have not entered a contest.
  • Asks for your credit card, calling card, bank account or social security number.
  • Uses a company name that is intended to sound like a government agency or a well-known company.
  • Pressures you to act on an offer the same day.
  • Acts as if he or she has done business with you before.
  • Is unwilling to send you written info on an offer or give references.

Other "At Home" Tips

  • Don't accept third party or collect calls that are suspicious or from someone you do not know. When you accept, you have agreed to pay for the charges.
  • Telephone companies or law enforcement officials will never ask customers to accept collect or third-party charges as part of an investigation. Only if you make a call through an operator will a telephone company representative request specific billing information.
  • Beware of individuals who call you requesting calling card verification. Telephone companies will never call you to ask for your calling card number. Only when you make a call through an operator should you give out your card number.
  • Restrict third party or collect calls from being made to your home or business. Some telephone companies offer this service, thus preventing fraudulent calls from being billed to your line.