Here is the important thing to know: Most companies, including AT&T and DIRECTV, will not ask for payment on a prepaid card like a gift card. This is especially true when the prepaid card is for a totally unrelated company or service. If someone tries to sell you services or an upgrade this way, it’s a big red flag that says, “Scam!”
How it Works
Sadly, the scammers are tricky. You may get a call to confirm that all is good with your service. Then they say you’ve been approved for a discount or upgrade. All you have to do is pay a few months in advance on a prepaid card. They want the money this way because it can’t be traced or refunded.
Always remember: Don’t pay with a prepaid card.
What To Look For
Here are three scenarios that ultimately can lead to a bad guy asking for payment on a gift card.
- Pretending to be a company representative, the bad guy will convince you he works for the company to get enough information from you to access your account. With that, he can make real-time changes you can see, such as adding an upgrade. Then he says you qualify for a promotion, if you pay with a prepaid card. To make it seem even more legitimate, the bad guy can make fake payments to your account. You will initially see a credit. But those payments never go through and the credit is removed. When you get your next bill, you will be charged the full amount for the upgrade with no promotion, and you’ve lost the money you sent to the scammer.
- The bad guy tells you he sent a “promo code” to your phone while he is chatting with you. He will ask you to read it back. The number is actually a temporary PIN code he caused the legitimate company to send to your phone by pretending to be you. He doesn’t actually know the PIN number until you read it to him. Once you read it, you’ve given him the ability to access your account. This can be followed by inviting you to pay for the promotion with a prepaid gift card.
- You receive a text message or email. It says that you should click the link or call the number for a great upgrade. Don’t call that number or click the link. Instead, call the customer service number on your regular bill and ask if the text is legitimate. These may be attempts to gain access to your account or scam you, which can include requests for prepaid cards as payment.
We don’t ask for payment with a prepaid card. If someone tries to sell you services or an upgrade this way, it is likely be a scam.
To make the scam appear legitimate, the bad guys may also spoof a company phone number. To learn more about spoofing and how to better protect yourself, read this Cyber Aware blog on spoofing.
AT&T Call Protect uses call and data patterns to help detect malicious activity and keep you more protected. To learn more, visit AT&T Mobile Security & Call Protect.
Here is a transcript from what one of these calls may sound like:
The reason for my call is to inform you that your account has been qualified for discounted rates for your existing services for the next two years and your monthly bill will drop to only $62.50. That is a fixed billing plan for the next two years and on top of that you will get a free upgrade to 300 HD channels, five movie premium channels and 31 HD sports channels. How does this promotion sound to you?
In order to activate this promotion, you have to prepay your account for the first four months in advance to the billing department. At $62.50 a month, our first prepay amount will be $250. After paying $250 you will not receive any bill from DIRECTV for four months and after that you will begin paying the monthly rate of $62.50 for the next 20 months. If you prepay $250 today, you will also get a $100 gift card as a complimentary gift from our sponsor partner [large internet retailer]. Is this something you can do today to take advantage of this wonderful offer?
Ok… I am going to transfer your call to a promotion specialist who will generate a promo code for you to get this offer. Can you hold on for a few seconds?
(At this point, they send you a fake code.)
Can you read me that promo code to confirm? And then send in a prepaid card along with the code, to our address.
So, when you get a call like this, don’t provide a PIN that has been sent to your phone. Do not send them anything. They will take your money, and you may not have those channels added to your service. If you do have them added, you will be billed in full the next month for your service.
When you call in to complain, the customer service representative will not see any of this activity on your account and will inform you that you have been scammed. You are out $250.
If you question the bad guy, this is how they might try to convince you.
Bad Guy rebuttal:
I understand your concerns, but your services will not change, and you don’t have to pay over the phone. You don’t have to share any financial information with me. You can save a lot of money over the next two years.
As you know, DIRECTV recently merged with AT&T and now we are revising our rates and we have sponsor partners to help.
Remember, if you have questions about the authenticity of an offer, call the customer service number on your regular bill and ask if it is legitimate.