Consumer warning: never use prepaid gift cards on the phone

LANCASTER, N.Y. (WIVB) – When the phone rang at Kim Carroccia’s Town of Lancaster home, she was immediately suspicious when the caller claimed he was from DirecTV, and had a great deal for her–a deep discount on a package of new popular channels, and all Kim had to do was pay a few months upfront with an Amazon gift card.

Adding to the skullduggery, when Kim quizzed the caller about her DirecTV account, he had all of her account information, right down to what she owed on her last bill.

“Tell me what current amount of bill do you have there for me, because our payment crossed in the mail. He gave me the bill that I just got out of the mail. He gave me the exact amount to the penny.”

The Lancaster mom dropped her defenses against a growing highly-sophisticated phone scam targeting DirecTV subscribers, and invoking the popularity of Amazon, to dig deep into the victims’ wallets.

In most cases, the telemarketers are somehow getting access to the DirecTV customers’ phone numbers and tricking them into thinking they are getting a deep discount on a package of premium channels. But in Carroccia’s case, the amount of information the scammers had from her account would seem to have come from DirecTV’s own files.

When Kim asked about the Amazon gift card, the caller said it was part of a joint pre-holiday promotion. She paid 4 months upfront for a one year discount, “It was $59.99, it came out to $240, even, is what he told me, and so that is what I got it for.”

That was on a Friday, but the following Monday, Kim found none of the new programming she was supposed to get, and called the DirecTV phone number. The person on the other end of the line, who sounded just like the telemarketer, gave Carroccia a bunch of excuses, and eventually she called and the phone was disconnected.

Kim then found the real phone number for DirecTV, and learned scammers had “spoofed” DirecTV’s number on her Caller ID, and impersonated representatives of the satellite TV service provider.

Worse yet, Kim used her money to buy the Amazon card, then by scratching off the code on the back, her $240 was transferred to a location that can’t be traced.

Much to her dismay, the Lancaster mom would discover this scam has been around for a nearly a year, and AT&T which owns DirecTV, has even set up a message board to get the word out.

The ripoff seemed so genuine, Kim found it hard to believe she had been scammed, “I have been a customer of DirecTV for 15 years. I still believed–I’m not scammed, not me. No way.”

Consumer watchdogs and law enforcement have long warned, when in doubt about a telemarketing offer, hang up the phone and call the number on your bill to avoid a ripoff.

The real DirecTV has offered Kim Carroccia a $100 credit on her bill, plus a package of free channels to ease some of her pain from this highly-sophisticated deception.

Amazon has posted a website warning consumers against gift card scams, and the Better Business Bureau has a list of tips concerning the use of prepaid gift cards.

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