Alert: Automated Verizon Call Is A Fake
Folks, I almost fell for a scam telephone “phishing” phone call reporting to be from one of my cellular service providers. I
think hope you are going to want to read my ‘confession’, and forward this warning to all your friends and family.
See, truth is, I did fall for it, but fortunately the trap did not close on me, and I did not give away my personal information, which (probably) would have been used in an “Identity theft”. (Or, they might have just glommed my credit card.) Me! Mr. B. Paranoid.
Here’s how it worked (and why I thought it was real):
I have been very busy helping people un-Windows 8 their new Windows 8 PC’s (bypassing the “Metro” UI, mainly) and so I found the message on my answering machine. It was a ‘recording’ woman’s voice. What I mean by that is it was an “automated” call. Anyone who has navigated a telephone “menu tree” (“para Espanol, pulse dos“) has heard this voice. “She” was, in a way, familiar. And “spoke” perfect robot-English.
The automated message identified me by name, said it was an “Important message regarding changes to my account status”, said I needed to call today, and provided me a 1-800 number to call and told me I would be asked to enter my cell phone number.
It pronounced my names correctly, and identified my Verizon phone number correctly. It repeated itself appropriately, and was – to put it simply – professional and exactly how I would expect an ‘alert’ call to sound. It sounded to me exactly the same as other legitimate calls I have received — such as our County’s “emergency alert system”, and my bank’s “unusual activity detected” calls.
But what really made me “bite” was, I knew that I had been “meaning to get to” paying my latest Verizon bill, but had put it off, then forgotten, in my busy-ness.. Had I delayed too long? Was this a pay-or-get-cut-off call? Could be.
So.. I called the 1-800 number to see what was up. And it rang once and disconnected. Thankfully!
I am not beating myself up too much, as I was juggling a lot of activity (aka “multitasking”), but at that disconnect, I did what I should have done first, I went to my computer and logged in to my Verizon “My account” and looked for any alerts, notices, or big red letters saying “PAY NOW OR GET CUT OFF”.. or anything that might explain that message on my voicemail. I did see a very mild “past due”, but nothing else.
Now I was quite intrigued! So I called the Verizon customer service number posted on the website (1-800-922-0204) and spoke with a young man who asked me several questions.. then asked me to play the message to him.
And he told me, “that’s not us. That’s a scam.”
How did he know? “Our robot voice is different, and that’s not one of our telephone numbers.”
Like I would know those two things.
So.. “in conclusion”.. I am abashed and embarrassed. This call had the earmarks of a phish, but I let those things .. not raise red flags. But this was undoubtedly the most professionally done phishing scam I have witnessed. A truly “pro con” (job). And, I guess I learned that I am not quite as “paranoid” (alert and wary) on the telephone as I am when online, and surfing the web.
And maybe I ought to quit trying to do three things at once, and pay more attention to one thing at a time.. But I feel stupid none the less.
Today, it was Verizon. Who knows what company they’ll impersonate next. I’ll never ‘trust’ another robot voice again!
So be aware. And be wary. They are trying to get us.
Dang. I feel dumb. Go ahead and laugh at me if you want. But I feel darn lucky too. What would I have given away if the call had gone through? What does untangling one’s self from Identity Theft cost these days? Don’t find out.. and don’t let your friends and family find out. Tell them about me, this call, and my dumb move. Let them laugh at me too.. and maybe raise their ‘paranoia’ as a consequence, and avoid scams like this.
I cannot print how I would punish the perps behind this one, if I could get my hands on them, but I can tell you I’d do it on TV.
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