The best defense is being well-informed. Thats the approach AT&T is taking in its second round of warnings to consumers about communications scams in the home.
Con artists are getting more and more creative, and consumers must be increasingly alert. Here are some common scams and tips that may help consumers identify and avoid telephone fraud:
SCAM: Call forwarding You may receive an automated message on your telephone that says you have won a prize or money, directing you to call a two-digit code preceded or followed by an asterisk or pound sign, then an 800 number to claim your prize. When you dial this number, you are not connected, but have just forwarded your calls to a long distance operator. The scam artist can then call your number, be forwarded to the long-distance operator, and place calls that are billed to your home telephone number.
TIP: If you receive a call of this type, hang up. If you receive this message on your answering machine, do not place the call. No legitimate business or sweepstakes would likely contact you this way. Also, be aware of the numbers your local telephone company uses for Call Forwarding.
SCAM: Revealing your calling card number Scam artists will use any ruse to get your calling card number, then use it to sell long-distance calls to locations around the world. Two of the tricks that they use are: calling you at home posing as a telephone representative, saying that they are checking on unauthorized charges billed to your account, and requesting your calling card number. Or, telling you that your calling card number has been deactivated in error, and that they need to verify your number so it can be re-instated in the system.
TIP: No matter how convincing the caller sounds, never give out your calling card number. AT&T has early warning systems in place to alert them if an unusual number of international calls are being placed on a consumers calling card, and in fact, will alert the consumer that their card is being used fraudulently.
SCAM: Inadvertently placing international calls In most cases it is necessary to dial 011 to begin a call to a foreign country, but did you know that some area codes in the Caribbean look like domestic long-distance calls 804, 284 and 876 but are actually international calls? And, dont be deceived into calling international numbers when you see an ad for a service directing you to call a specific number. Or you may receive a page, an email or “urgent” message on your answering machine, directing you to call a number for additional information.
TIP: Always be cautious about area codes you dont recognize. Find out where the area code is located before placing your call. Or, your long-distance carrier can place a block on international calls on your telephone line.
AT&T provides a fraud education Web site at www.att.com/fraud, and issues a fraud brochure that is available by calling 800-851-0439.