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A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.
Old 07-22-2006, 11:53 AM   #1
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A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.

I got taken like a rookie as we left for vacation. The phone rang during our last-minute rushing around before the drive to the airport, and when I picked it up I heard a computer-generated voice: "This is the AT&T long-distance operator. You have a collect call from ['Take the call, Nords!']. If you choose to accept the call then say 'Accept' or push * to blah blah blah:"

The voice recording sounded like my wife's uncle, who's in his 70s and still refuses to grow up, so it was all too easy to believe that he'd be panicky and calling collect from a jail cell. I asked "Who is this?" and the same person said "It's me, please accept so you can help me!!" During this conversation the "AT&T operator" was still yammering away in the background about pushing numbers so I said "Accept!"

Of course it was a scam. The caller wasn't Uncle Fred, it was a guy with the same Bronx accent who wanted to know "where to send my check". After about 20 seconds I said goodbye & hung up. Neither AT&T nor our local phone company had any record of the call (their computer records don't update that fast) and no one was interested in filing complaints or challenging phone charges. I filed the whole thing under "later" and got to the airport.

After a little research I realized that if I'd followed the "operator" instructions to push phone buttons then I would've gotten into a variation of the classic call-forwarding scam (http://www.snopes.com/fraud/telephone/jailcall.asp and http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/scams/forward.asp). I don't think that computer-generated phone voice was really the AT&T operator after all. Good thing our kid didn't answer the phone. Good thing I didn't leave our phone at someone else's disposal during our two-week vacation...

Of course our latest phone bill has a usage charge of $7.40 plus $1.21 in taxes & tolls for 1 minute of "AT&T Oper Serv". As I'm sure the operators would gleefully point out, after all I did accept the call. While I could kick up a fuss about the charge, and while I have plenty of free ER time to waste on AT&T and Hawaiian Telcom, I think that $8.61 is comparitively cheap tuition at the School of Experience for Stupid People and I'd rather get on with my life.

Unless the trouble is just beginning and more charges are coming down the pipeline. Anyone know of a more effective way to dispute this charge? Is there anywhere else I can file a complaint or block this type of call?
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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.
Old 07-24-2006, 02:56 PM   #2
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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.

Amazing how these scams come up! This is one I've not heard of, but I could see it happening so easily. Do you have the "custom call forwarding" feature on your phone that Snopes mentions? I wonder if by not having it, you'd prevent it from happening again?
And I'd fight it, just on principle.
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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.
Old 07-24-2006, 03:07 PM   #3
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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.

I read about a clever scam. You get a call, and they say it's the police. They say there's an emergency, they need some info, such as your SSN. They say "We understand you may be suspicious of this, so if you want, you can hang up and call 911 to verify this," and they'll take the info.

So you call 911, and they confirm that it's OK. That would ease your suspicions, right?

But what really happens is this: When you hang up, they stay on the line. You pick up the phone again, and they play a recording of a dial tone. When you dial, they turn off the recording, and answer "911, what's your emergency."

Pretty sneaky, huh?

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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.
Old 07-24-2006, 07:52 PM   #4
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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl
I read about a clever scam. You get a call, and they say it's the police. They say there's an emergency, they need some info, such as your SSN. They say "We understand you may be suspicious of this, so if you want, you can hang up and call 911 to verify this," and they'll take the info.

So you call 911, and they confirm that it's OK. That would ease your suspicions, right?

But what really happens is this: When you hang up, they stay on the line. You pick up the phone again, and they play a recording of a dial tone. When you dial, they turn off the recording, and answer "911, what's your emergency."

Pretty sneaky, huh?

Clever. Could even fool me.
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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.
Old 07-26-2006, 03:28 PM   #5
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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mclesters
And I'd fight it, just on principle.*
Since my time is worthless, I started making the phone calls.

The AT&T operator says they can't process the charge or a credit since it's on my local phone bill. AT&T is just passing the problem on.

Hawaiian Telcom just took over from Verizon and has been swamped with billing problems as they implement their own back-office procedures, so I was on hold for 20 minutes. OTOH they credited the charge without even arguing about it!

I think $8.61 for 20 minutes' work beats my best active-duty hourly rate...
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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.
Old 07-26-2006, 05:18 PM   #6
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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.

Yeah. Score one for the curmudgeons.

A saw a TV article saying that since us retired people have time, it's our duty to complain and seek restitution for small mistakes and things that busy people don't have time to worry about. That is, be curmudgeons.

Making the world a better place -- $8.61 at a time.
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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.
Old 07-26-2006, 05:34 PM   #7
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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.

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Originally Posted by TromboneAl
A saw a TV article saying that since us retired people have time, it's our duty to complain and seek restitution for small mistakes and things that busy people don't have time to worry about.* That is, be curmudgeons.
And it does work, to an extent. However, once I had a problem with a discontinued cell phone account. A pretty big problem, to the tune of hundreds of dollars. So I call the phone company and the service rep apologizes and says he is going to cancel the bogus charges. Fine.

The following month I receive another bill for the same amount. I call back, talk to another service rep who tells me that the previous service rep failed to cancel the charges "the right way", so they are still pending, but he is going to take care of it. OK.

The following month I receive the same bill in the mail, call the phone company, get yet another service rep. He explains that the last 2 service reps screwed up, but he is going to fix the problem. Um, all right.

The following month I get a nasty letter from a collection agency. I get really irritated, send the full amount to the phone company, figuring that it would be easier to get a refund than to have them cancel the charges, which they seem to be clearly incapable of.

I call them again, get a 4th service rep, who is very sympathetic, apologizes profusely and cancels the charges. However, when she finds out that the check is already in the mail, she becomes somewhat upset and says "Oh, you have already sent us a check! That was probably a mistake since our refund people are, um, not always very good".

And by golly, she was right! I am yet to see my money after all this time.
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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.
Old 07-26-2006, 06:04 PM   #8
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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.

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Originally Posted by Scrooge
The following month I get a nasty letter from a collection agency. I get really irritated, send the full amount to the phone company, figuring that it would be easier to get a refund than to have them cancel charges, which they seem to be clearly incapable of.
Ouch. I'm not yet a curmudgeon but that would drive me up the wall.

I've been in a feud with a collection agency for several years now. I'm in the right and have the documentation to prove it but I'm too lazy to go downtown to take care of the problem. In the meantime, they send me nasty letters and sometimes I respond; if they call, I put them on hold and go eat. They'd like to blemish my credit report but they don't have the correct personal data to do so.

I even looked up the owner of the collection agency and sent him a Christmas card.
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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.
Old 07-26-2006, 06:14 PM   #9
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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl

A saw a TV article saying that since us retired people have time, it's our duty to complain and seek restitution for small mistakes and things that busy people don't have time to worry about. That is, be curmudgeons.

Making the world a better place -- $8.61 at a time.
So that is what you should tell people when they ask what do you do all day.

"I seek restituion for small mistakes and things that busy people don't have time to worry about"
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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.
Old 07-26-2006, 09:32 PM   #10
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Re: A new version of an old scam... to me anyway.

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Originally Posted by Martha
"I seek restituion for small mistakes and things that busy people don't have time to worry about"*
I'm not looking for a job, but...
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