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N4T Investigators: Scam robocalls seeking your personal information

TUCSON –  Although Matt Pushkar works at the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona, scammers don’t care and probably don’t know that. Matt recently received this recorded message on his cell phone:

“Your account has been suspended for verification. To reactivate your account using the automated system, press one. To speak to a service representative, press two.”

Matt knew the robocall was from scammers seeking to obtain his personal information.  He didn’t answer the call. If he had, the scammers would know his cell phone number, which they sell to other scammers. If he also pressed one of the options, they would likely try to get his banking information and/or his Social Security number.  They would say they need one or both account numbers to fix his wireless account.

The scammers’ caller ID came up as the real Verizon Wireless customer service number; that’s because they use technology to “spoof” numbers.  But get this: Matt doesn’t even use Verizon Wireless as his provider.  While he didn’t fall for it, a lot of people do.

Matt said, “Especially for seniors, I’m very concerned because it’s a very easy trap to fall in to.”

Robocalls have set record numbers lately. According to YouMail, which monitors them, four and a half billion robocalls were made to U.S. residents in October.  there were 6.1 million robocalls made per hour and 1700 per second. The average number received per person in Tucson was 10 calls for the month.  At least 40% were scam calls. Some were legal (but often annoying) telemarketing calls.

Susann Miller, a BBB spokesperson, said, “Your phone number alone now can give so much information because they’re actually stealing information from your phone, using your phone number to log onto your accounts.”

If you get one of these calls, Miller says, “Hang up and then call your carrier directly. Or log into your account. Because if they’re claiming that your account has been suspended or you are past due, it will show that on your account online.”

You can also buy an app, such as Robokiller.  Its developers say it blocks at least 90% of robocalls. It costs $3.99 a month or $29.99  for 12 months.

Matt Pushkar says, “With us coming across scam after scam, it’s just, there are so many different traps out there. So it’s very disconcerting.”

Scammers are not just posing as Verizon Wireless representatives, but as reps of other providers as well.  Remember, if you get one of these calls,  hang up immediately, then call your provider or check your account online to make sure everything is ok.

Matthew Schwartz

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