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Verizon customers beware of phone scammers pretending to be helpful agents

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Consumer reporter and ombudsman

Verizon customers are being targeted by phone scammers pretending to be helpful agents of the wireless titan. The predators deliver troubling news to their unaware victims and then provide urgent solutions to “fix” the problem.

I know this firsthand because one of these crooks called my Verizon number and tried his scheme on me. As you can imagine, things didn’t go quite as this phone scammer had planned.


I was busy working on an article, ironically about scammers, for another media outlet when my phone rang. Glancing down at the caller ID, I recognized the area code for New York City – the same as mine. But the number was unfamiliar.

What followed was yet another of my somewhat entertaining but equally disturbing conversations with a bad guy. This scammer’s intent, just like all the rest, was to tell a convoluted story, designed to create panic to keep his victim off-kilter. The end goal, of course, would be to steal as much money and personal information from me as possible.

Unfortunately for this particular scammer, he called the wrong Verizon customer. Instead of a potential victim frightened by his words, he found himself in a frustrating and confusing situation. 

Here’s how my phone call with a fake Verizon customer service agent unfolded – and what you need to know about how to spot similar scammers. 

“Hello, lady! I’m calling from Verizon.”

Me: Michelle Couch-Friedman.

Scammer: Hello there, lady. I’m calling from Verizon customer service on a recorded line. We have reason to believe your account has been hacked. 

The number displayed on my phone wasn’t Verizon customer service, so I already assumed this was a scammer. But when the caller used the term “lady” to address me, that instantly confirmed my suspicion.

If you’re a regular reader of mine, then you know I’ve been talking to tons of scammers lately. One thing they almost all have in common is their use of “lady” during their spiel. They seem to, at least initially, mean the salutation to be polite, but instead it’s a dead give away that they aren’t who they’re pretending to be.

I’ve never heard a legitimate customer service agent use the term”lady” — at least not in a professional way. I bet you haven’t either since, at least in this region of the world, it comes off as abrasive and unusual.

Yet, all the scammers I’ve recently spoken to have repeatedly called me “lady” – from start to finish. “Hey, lady, I’m here to help!”  “Lady, you’re not understanding how serious this is.” “Lady, I want to fix this for you.” And my favorite: “Lady, I’m not a scammer! Trust me!”

If someone calls you from a customer service department and doesn’t address you by your actual name, it’s likely because they don’t know it. You can be sure you’re talking to a scammer. Just hang up.

Of course, though, I was curious what this guy’s scheme was about so I continued on with our call.

A surprise iPhone purchase from your Verizon account

Me: Oh? What’s going on that makes you think my Verizon account was hacked?

Scammer: Do you know a guy named Eric Miller?

M: No, why? 

S: He just ordered an iPhone 15 Pro from your account. 

M: Really? What color?

S: (Sounding slightly annoyed already) Lady, why do you care about the color? The color doesn’t matter. We have to stop him from completing the purchase.

M: I was just wondering. How much did the iPhone cost?

S: Uh… I don’t know. I can’t see the price. But we have to act fast. [The hacker] could go pick up the phone at a Verizon store while we’re talking. Then you’ll have to pay for it. 

M: Why can’t you see the price and why would you let a guy named Eric Miller order a phone through my account?

Suddenly, before he could answer, a toddler started crying in the background and he yelled something at the child. This caused the baby to wail louder.

Me: Maybe you should take care of your baby instead of what you’re doing here?

Scammer: No, lady, I’m here to help you and we need to fix this quickly.

M: I would prefer you tend to your baby.

Then he shouted something unintelligible into the room and it sounded as if someone came and took the child away.

Me: That was weird. Do they let you bring children to work at Verizon? Are you sure you’re calling me from Verizon?

S: That wasn’t my child. Ok, let’s fix this before it’s too late. We’re running out of time.

Me: All right, how do we do that?

Now that the distraction of the child was gone, the scammer got down to business.

Fake Verizon customer service agent will send me a text

Next, my “helpful” agent gave me some instructions that he said would prevent the hacker from completing his scam. 

Scammer: I’m going to send you a text to your Verizon number. When you receive it, click the “approve” button. If you get a code instead, just read it back to me. This will stop the hacker from having further access to your Verizon account. We have to do this fast!

Now I understood where this scammer was going with his ploy. 

How a phone scammer can get into a Verizon account

When a Verizon wireless user forgets their password or tries to sign in from an unusual location, the company will send a message to the customer’s mobile phone. If the customer approves access through that text, the device that made the request will immediately be given access to the Verizon account on a one-time basis.

Verizon customer sign in and forgot password page, Fake Verizon customer service agents use this page to scam their victims.
Step one: The scammer clicks forgot password from their computer through the Verizon sign in page. That causes Verizon to send a text to the account owner’s phone.
Verizon will send the customer this text asking for approval
Step 2: A text from the real Verizon. If a customer clicks “allow access,” the scammer’s screen will refresh and he will now be inside the Verizon account.

After the Verizon customer allows access and the scammer is inside their account, the con artist keeps his prey on the line just long enough to complete the password change. Then he assures his victim the crisis has been averted and the account is now secure. Unfortunately, most victims of this scam don’t realize until much later that they were actually talking to the hacker the whole time.

Verizon sends a follow up  text, Scammer now has access to the victims Verizon account, Verizon customer service warning
Step 3: After the scammer successfully gets into the victim’s account, the real Verizon customer service sends this alert. The predator assures his prey that this text is normal and not to worry about it.

This scam isn’t going to work today

Of course, I never let this scheme go beyond step one. I had heard enough. It was time to let this scammer know the jig was up.

Scammer: Okay, I’m going to send you the message now.

Me: Don’t bother. That would be a waste of time. I know you don’t work for Verizon, and you’re not a helpful customer service agent, you’re just a scammer. It’s too bad this is what you’ve chosen as your career — and to do this in front of your child is particularly gross. 

CLICK. 

I was surprised at his swift hangup. Usually a scammer will try at least one more angle before giving up.

So I called the scammer back to see if he was using his own Verizon account for this scheme or if the number was spoofed.

What’s a spoofed number? A scammer can make nearly any number and name appear in the display of your phone. Consumers should never assume the information on their screen is accurate, especially if the caller is asking you to provide personal details and doesn’t seem to have much information about you.

When I dialed the number, it would not connect. The message on the screen showed “User Busy” and a strange busy signal blared into my ear. I tried several more times with the same result.

So in the end, it appears that number was a spoofed number created just to lure me (the intended victim) into a sense of security: A local area code, just like mine.

What Verizon customers need to know about these phone scammers

Here’s what to be aware of if you get a call from someone who says they are Verizon customer support and that someone has hacked into your account.

Verizon will never call you and ask for information

Verizon will not ever contact a customer to request personal information. If someone calls you and says they need you to verify your identity, decline and instead ask that person to verify their identity. If the agent appears to have no specific details about you — even basic information like your name — that’s a scammer. Don’t let the scenario the thief has cooked up frighten you into doing something that will put your money and identity at risk.

Consumers should never give personal details to someone calling them. Remember the flow of personal information should always be from the company to the customer. 

Do not ignore warnings on your screen

Verizon is aware of this particular scheme and has made efforts to alert customers that its employees are not making calls asking consumers to “authenticate” their accounts. In order for this scam to work, the victim must ignore multiple warnings on the texts that they receive from Verizon.

Unfortunately, our advocacy team knows from experience, that consumers do often ignore warnings meant to protect them – even when those warnings are right in front of their faces. 

It’s important not to rush through alerts that pop-up on your phone, no matter who you think is telling you to hurry up and ignore what you’re seeing. A scammer will always attempt to rush you through the process so that you don’t have time to think logically about the situation. Legitimate customer service agents won’t call you with urgent instructions — but a criminal’s plans for you depend on this tactic.

Be careful about “official business numbers” in the search results

Of course, after receiving a strange call like this, your first impulse may be to call the company to make sure a hacker hasn’t broken into your account. However, if you’re not careful, you could just jump off the phone with one scammer and hop on the line with another.

As I recently reported over at The Points Guy and here on Consumer Rescue, scam call centers pretending to be the official sites of major companies have been able to infiltrate the Google search results with alarming success. Searching for the official website of popular businesses on the Internet has become increasingly tricky.

Before you dial a number that seems like it might be Verizon or another business you patronize, be sure to double and triple check the listing.

Verizon customers should report the scam to 1-800-922-0204

Verizon customers targeted for this scam should report the incident to Verizon at 1-800-922-0204. That number is available to Verizon customers from Monday – Saturday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. eastern and Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. eastern.

Alternatively, Verizon customers can also report a scammer or phishing attempt to [email protected]

Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Although there isn’t a lot that can be done about a scammer who is calling you from a spoofed number, filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission is a good idea. Your report will help the FTC to be able to understand the latest tactics of phone scammers and warn a wider consumer audience.

The bottom line

We know the bad guys are always on the prowl, looking for unique ways to trick new victims. That means you must stay aware, refuse unsolicited calls from customer service agents, and report scams and phishing attempts to the proper authorities.

But if the worst should happen, Consumer Rescue is here to investigate and help if we can. Our assistance is always friendly and always free of charge. (Michelle Couch-Friedman, Consumer Rescue)

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle Couch-Friedman is the founder and CEO of Consumer Rescue. She is a consumer advocate, ombudsman columnist, mediator, writer, and licensed psychotherapist. Michelle is a public speaker, and her expert guidance has been cited in MarketWatch, Consumer Reports, Travel & Leisure, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Popular Science, CNN, CNBC, Boston Globe, CBS News, National Geographic, Travel Weekly, Reader's Digest and more. You might even catch Michelle on TV reporting on a situation. :) Michelle is also the travel ombudsman columnist for The Points Guy and is the former executive director of the nonprofit Elliott Advocacy. During her six years in that position, she resolved thousands of cases for troubled travelers and other consumers. You can read hundreds of 5-star reviews Michelle earned during her service to the nonprofit since 2016 here on Great Nonprofits. She is also a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. Today, she continues to spend as much time as possible fiercely defending consumers and traveling the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Couch-Friedman or on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook.