Scam Alert! Beware of scammers selling satellite TV for one-time payment
A press release dated March 1 from the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) says scammers are targeting satellite TV customers nationwide. They call and promise increased channel options or decreased bills in exchange for a one-time annual payment.
The swindlers seem to be targeting Latino and other minority populations, seniors and consumers who regularly use cash for financial transactions.
"Consumers are calling us to report that they've been contacted by criminals falsely claiming to represent a satellite television provider," said Sandy Chalmers, Division Administrator for Trade and Consumer Protection. "These are fairly elaborate schemes, and it takes many victims time to catch on that they have been scammed. By the time they find out, their money is gone and their actual satellite bill is past due."
DATCP asks all cable and satellite TV customers to be on the alert for fraudulent calls and gives some points to remember.
- Unless the customer has initiated contact, do not give out personal or account information over the phone, especially account, pin, social-security or credit card numbers, particularly to callers who initiate contact and claim to represent the satellite-TV service provider.
- If a consumer suspects a scammer calling, they should hang up and call their cable or satellite TV provider.
- Dish Network asks customers to report fraudulent sales call to its consumer fraud department 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily at 888-309-0370.
- Directv customers can report suspicious sales activity at the hotline phone number 310-964-2020 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Be suspicious of any service request that requires a wire transfer or the purchase of a prepaid debit card.
- Any consumer who wants to make changes to their cable or satellite account should call the phone number listed on their bill.
- Customers who have fallen victim to the scam and sent money on a prepaid debit card or via a wire transfer, should file a police report.
The news release says at least one Wisconsin consumer recouped his money after being scammed and filing a report. Authorities were able to work with Western Union to gather information on the recipient of the man's money transfer.
The satellite scammers seem to be using two setup scenarios:
1. The scammer contacts a satellite-TV subscriber and claims to be a representative of the provider company, next asking for account-specific details. They then pitch the person on increased channel options and/or a year's worth of service for a one-time fee, usually between $250-$400. While one scammer has the customer on the phone, another scammer calls the victim's satellite provider and asks for upgraded service, prompting the company to send a technician. The consumer is prompted at the time of the call to send a prepaid debit card - Green Dot "Money Pak" to a third-party address. By the time consumers suspect anything, their real cable or satellite TV account is past due and sometimes subject to early-termination, late-payment and equipment fees.
2. The scammer contacts satellite-TV customers offering a promotional upgrade, part of which is that the company will deposit $300 into the subscriber account. The victim is then asked to transfer the money to a third-party company.
"It is important for cable and satellite televisioncustomers to use caution when dealing with sales requests and where the sales person calls the customer," added Chalmers. "Be cautious with your personal and account information and remember to hang up and call your provider directly if you think the call may be a scam."