Dear Readers: This time, the ABC News Fixer is the one with the problem -- an annoying and crafty phishing scam that we wanted to let you know about.
It started in June, when we got a voicemail from an (800) number on our Verizon Wireless phone, directing us to a website to claim a credit of $400: "Simply log into your account to redeem your $400," the caller said. "At Verizon, we care about you. Thank you, and have a nice day."
Was this our lucky day? Was Verizon really going to give us $400 just for being a good customer?
We didn't want to go directly to the website, so we checked out references to it online instead. Turns out plenty of others got hit with this call, too. Consumers who went to the website said it looked just like a real Verizon Wireless site and it asked for their login, password and PIN. In the worst cases, consumers reported having their credit card or banking info hacked.
This month, the calls are back, which the same friendly man's voice offering the same sort of pitch – offers of $81 or $281 cash back – and using similar fake Web addresses.
We asked Verizon Wireless spokesman Paul Macchia what's up with the calls. Macchia said that like lots of big companies, Verizon gets targeted by phishing scams that try to lure consumers to a look-alike website. There, the scammers aim to steal their personal information and commit identity theft. Verizon has been shutting down the fake websites as they pop up, Macchia said – which explains why the latest one we found has already disappeared.
Macchia told the ABC News Fixer that the real Verizon doesn't offer any promotions like this.
"They're just trying to steal identities," he said. "We're chasing down every single one of these. Our customers are very important."
Global estimates of monetary damage from phishing scams vary, but even the lowest estimates are in the millions. From April to June alone, more than 600 unique brands were targeted for phishing attacks, according to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, a global coalition of industry, law enforcement and governments.
Some of these scams are pretty clever, employing real logos and sound-alike website names. For a split second, even the ABC News Fixer hoped this fake Verizon scam was a call about real money.
If these scammers call you, report the details of the call by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Verizon customer service. The company also offers free spam-blocking services; for more info, CLICK HERE. Other phishing scams can be reported to www.ic3.gov.
- The ABC News Fixer
Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.