STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
MARBLE FALLS — As Marble Falls resident Jane Marie Hurst started answering questions from a recent caller claiming to be a Verizon Wireless representative, something just didn’t seem right. Now, Verizon officials are warning customers about such calls.
“(The caller) said he was with Verizon Fraud Detection Department. He sent me some text messages and asked me what password I saw,” Hurst said. “I told him he should tell me, since he sent them.”
Hurst said she refused to share the texted information.
“He started a Q&A with me. I asked him where he was physically located,” Hurst added. “He said Meadowlakes. I said, ‘I know Meadowlakes. (There) is no (Verizon) office in Meadowlakes.’ He hung up.”
Hurst said she contacted the Austin Verizon office, which researched her issue, found the company was not the source of the calls, and flagged her account.
Around the time of the report, Verizon officials tracked the possible scammers to a Verizon store in Mississippi and informed Hurst that a woman had attempted to use her identity for an account.
“It is very scary, very frustrating,” she said. “My account is important for professional and personal use.”
A similar scenario was also reported by at least one other Marble Falls resident.
Verizon officials said they have responded to such “phone fraud activity” from customers in the past.
“Unfortunately, scammers pretending to represent companies or government agencies in order to access sensitive information is nothing new,” a company statement read. “If you receive an unexpected call from someone claiming to be a Verizon employee or Verizon representative asking for the account PIN, username or password(s), or any other private information related your wireless accounts, do not be fooled.”
The company offered the following tips to customers to secure accounts and protect information:
• Verizon will never contact you unexpectedly and ask for a person identification numbers (PIN), username, password, or other sensitive information regarding your account.
• Be wary of communications, including phone calls, texts, or emails, requesting your account’s username or password.
• Avoid clicking links, downloading or opening attachments, or visiting websites found within unexpected or suspicious emails.
• Create strong passwords and change them often.
• Regularly review your account activity.
Hurst said her personal experience has heightened her awareness about potential scams.
“I obviously got sucked into it initially,” she said. “Do not hesitate to ask questions to get them to verify who they are.
“We were lucky it didn’t go further than that,” she added.
A list of types of cellphone fraud, billing, and money wiring scams and ways to avoid becoming a victim can be found on the Verizon website.