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June, 2002

Do Not Call Scam – Do Not Give Information

Verizon and the New York State Consumer Protection Board today issued a nationwide warning about the latest scam designed to trick consumers into giving out personal information such as social security numbers and telephone calling card numbers. In addition to New York, Verizon has received complaints about the scam from across the country.

In the scam, the con artist calls a consumer and identifies himself as an official with a "Do Not Call" registry, a popular and effective weapon consumers can use to avoid unwanted telemarketing. As the scam call unfolds, the phony registry official says he needs to verify that the consumer does not want to receive telemarketing calls, but he needs some personal information to ensure he is talking to the correct person. He then asks for personal information, such as a consumer's social security number or a telephone calling card number.

"This is a new wrinkle on a decades-old scam where criminals try to convince consumers that they're someone official who needs some information to help them," said Dave Fisher, Verizon fraud prevention manager. "The new twist here is that instead of claiming, for example, that they're a Verizon employee who needs some information to help the consumer with their phone service, the new con artists take advantage of the growing popularity of do- not-call registries and say they need information to help the consumer avoid telemarketing calls."

Consumers should be aware that once they register with a state, national or company do-not-call list, there is no need to confirm personal information nor do state agencies or others need to call them to check on the consumer's request, according to Fisher. Once the consumer registers, telemarketers are required to avoid calling them.

"Scams like this are called 'social engineering' when someone uses finely tuned social skills to convince a unsuspecting victim they're someone they're not. Once criminals gets someone's personal information, they can use it for a variety of purposes, including making long- distance calls or even identity theft," Fisher said. "I urge consumers not to give out any of this information over the phone to someone they don't know. If someone you don't know asks for such information, challenge them, ask for a callback number to verify who they are, or just hang up."

"The Consumer Protection Board never calls a consumer -- or charges a fee -- to join Governor Pataki's Do Not Call Telemarketing Registry," said May M. Chao, chairperson and executive director of the New York State Consumer Protection Board. "Likewise, the state does not call anyone to confirm their registration on the Do Not Call Registry. If you receive a call such as this, it is a scam and you should report this to the New York State Consumer Protection Board." The board's toll-free number for reporting scams is 1-800-697-1220. "The Do Not Call Telemarketing Registry is a free service to New York residents. And no state official is going to call you to register you, confirm your registration or ask for personal financial information," Chao said.

New Yorkers can register for the "Do Not Call" Telemarketing Registry by calling toll-free at 1-866-622-5569 or by registering on the Internet at www.consumer.state.ny.us or by writing to the "Do Not Call" Telemarketing Registry at P.O. Box 2078, Albany, NY 12220-0078. New York's Do Not Call registry is the largest state-operated list in the country.

In addition to maintaining its own do-not-call registry, Verizon offers two services that can help consumers avoid telemarketing calls: the popular Caller ID service and a relatively new product known as Call Intercept.

Call Intercept automatically intercepts calls from callers who block their numbers or whose numbers appear on a Caller ID display as "out of area" or "unavailable." A recording asks the caller to say his or her name and company and the message is then played for the consumer, who decides whether to accept the call. Call Intercept has proven to be very effective in fighting unwanted telemarketing. The availability of these and other products varies by state and community, so consumers should check with their local Verizon business office -- listed on their Verizon phone bill -- to determine what products are available in their area.