Palm Beach County residents are getting calls that seem to be from their own cell number. Received one of these? A reporter and his son did.
A recorded message that purports to be from AT&T says an account has been compromised and asks people to punch in the last four digits of their social security number.
It’s just confusing and disconcerting enough to throw some folks off balance. They may wonder if only a phone company could call them from their own number, so there might be something to it.
Don’t respond. Hang up. It’s a scam to gather information that could be used to plunder accounts or steal your identity.
“These calls are not from AT&T,” said company spokeswoman Kelly Starling. “If any company calls you and asks for your personal information, that is a red flag. One of our tips on our new Cyber Aware website is never give such information to someone who calls you. Call the company at the number found on your bill. You can read more helpful tips for all consumers at www.att.com/cyberaware.”
The call appears to be from your own phone number through a technological trick called “spoofing.” This is how scammers appear to be calling from the IRS or from across town in other ploys. That is why, unfortunately, you can’t take the caller ID at face value 100 percent of the time.
Your own number on the caller ID is a relatively new twist, though reports started popping up in other states in recent months. It’s also a sure sign of trouble. Real phone companies don’t do this.
We’re talking scams that go back up to 14 years, generating more than 550,000 complaints about money transfers related to fees to collect fake lottery prizes, phony family emergencies, fraudulent online romance and more. Western Union knew from reports inside and outside the company that such frauds were occurring, and the reports in some cases implicated its own agents, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Western Union said in a statement last year, “We share the government’s goal of protecting consumers and the integrity of our global money transfer network, and we worked hard to resolve these matters with the government.” The company added: “We are committed to enhancing our compliance programs to prevent illicit activity on our network and protect customers who transfer money to friends, family and businesses.”
Consumers have until Feb. 12 to file claims for refunds for fraudulent payments made via Western Union between Jan. 1, 2004 and Jan. 17, 2017.
The FTC felt obligated to add this warning: Don’t pay anything to file a claim for your refund. That’s a sure sign you are not dealing with the right people. In other words, don’t get scammed in your attempt to get a scam refund.
“The U.S. Department of Justice is managing the claims process through the company they hired, Gilardi & Co.,” a Federal Trade Commission statement said Tuesday. “Your claim will go to Gilardi, but we suggest you start at FTC.gov/WU, which will link you to the claims website.”
Regency Financial Services and principal Ivan Levy perpetrated a “vehicle loan assistance relief services scam,” the FTC charged. Websites promised beleaguered drivers could “lower your payments as much as 50% regardless of your credit score” and claimed consumers saved an average of $293 per month, according to an FTC complaint.
Instead customers paid up-front fees, often $499 in a lump sum or installments, relying on promises the company would prevent creditors from repossessing their vehicles and substantially reduce their interest rate, officials said. Regency typically provided “valueless referrals and advice,” according to the complaint alleging unfair or deceptive trade practices.
The FTC said it is mailing 288 checks totaling more than $109,000 to people who paid an up-front fee. Average amount: $380.
A settlement that produced the money also banned the defendants from telemarketing and selling debt relief products or services. Attempts to seek comment from defendants through an attorney were not successful.
Affected consumers should deposit or cash checks within 60 days, federal officials said, and if they have questions, they should contact the FTC’s refund administrator, Rust Consulting Inc., at 866-591-7249.
The real number for the Veterans Choice Program is 866-606-8198. The program allows eligible vets to use approved health care providers outside of the Veterans Affairs system.
“Here’s the problem,” says an advisory from the Federal Trade Commission. “Scammers have set up a phony telephone line that very closely resembles the VCP’s real telephone number. Con artists often use names, seals, and logos that look or sound like those of respected, legitimate organizations. This time they’re using a phone number that’s almost identical to the real thing, counting on creating confusion.”
People call and think they have reached the real number.
“The fake line’s message says you’re entitled to a rebate if you provide a credit card number,” says FTC attorney Carol Kando-Pineda. “But if you give up your account information, they’ll debit your account and you’ll get nothing in return. There is no rebate and you’ll need to cancel your credit card.”
The real program won’t ask for your credit card number over the phone, officials say.
You can check the website for the real Veterans Choice program here:
The company posted a longer statement on its Facebook page, saying, “There is a fraudulent Publix coupon circulating on social media that states ‘$75 off your purchase of $80 or more’. This is not supported by Publix and this coupon is not valid at any of our locations. We recommend not participating in the promotion or providing your personal information. Thank you for your patience as we investigate this situation.”
The coupon stems from a supposed promotion for the company’s 89th anniversary. It’s being shared by many people on Facebook. A recent similar post promised an Aldi coupon in exchange for an email address and sharing a post on Facebook. However, that also proved to be a scam.