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Lessons learned from a phone scam

Last week, my cell phone started ringing incessantly. By "incessantly," I mean every two seconds. The numbers that came through were not 10-digit numbers, but sometimes 15-to-20 digits. When I answered, the call disconnected. I called Verizon and was told there was nothing they could do about it, that a machine was likely dialing my number and that it would take 24-hours for them to get the real 10-digit number behind the calls rather than the fake numbers showing up on my phone. (Verizon can only block 10-digit numbers.) I had a gut feeling that a scam was underway but Verizon assured me that no one could hack into my phone just by dialing it incessantly. After three calls with Verizon, I turned my phone to silent and hoped that the calls would eventually stop. I then got a call from a woman named "Maria" who claimed that she was from Verizon and apologized for the technical difficulties. She asked me to turn off my phone. I asked her for her name again and a call back number. When she hesitated in giving me the call back number, my suspicions that she was a scammer were solidified. I could not imagine what would happen if I turned my phone off but I knew I did not want to do what "Maria" asked. I kept my phone on until the battery drained from all of the calls and it shut off. I had been checking my bank accounts periodically online throughout the day. For some reason, I had hunch that the scam was going to be on one of my accounts. I have the Bank of America app on my phone and, although Verizon assured me that no one could get that information simply by repeatedly calling me, I still felt uneasy.

4 comments

  1. Ms. Mann:
    This is a truly helpful article. Thank you so much. I will be passing the article along to others.

  2. “I know without doubt thieves will continue to find new ways to steal our identities and money. The best way to protect yourself is to routinely change passwords, never use the same password for multiple accounts, keep security software up-to-date, only access sensitive accounts from computers you know and trust and stay vigilant of your online accounts.”

    — I agree. I’ve read of a similar advice posted at this consumer protection website called http://www.callercenter.com and that’s what I did. Scammers prey on potential victims all the time and when you keep updating your information, there’s no way they can keep up.

  3. I got this text message: “Dear Walmart shopper, Congratulations you have just won a $1000 Walmart Gift Card. Click here to claim your gift…”

    Walmart posted this to its website: Walmart Gift Card Text Message Scams
    March 9, 2012 — There has been a sudden increase in scam text messages referring people to a site where they can “claim a Walmart Gift Card” by entering certain private personal information. These attacks that take place through SMS text message technologies to personal mobile phones are scams and are in no way sponsored by or affiliated with Walmart.

    …just another tip!

  4. I hope you moved your accounts to a bank with more Internet security. It’s possible the thieves got the information by hacking into them. It seems to me I heard a news report to that effect.