EL PASO, Texas - A reported scam is targeting DirectTV customers in the borderland.
An ABC-7 viewer says he scammed out of $300 after agreeing to an alleged DirecTV/Amazon promotion. Javier Villanueva tells Abc-7 he's stunned by how creative and sophisticated the scam was.
Villanueva says he didn't think anything was unusual because he received a call last week from a number identical to DirecTV and his caller ID even showed DirecTV. Villanueva says what's even more frightening is the man on the other line gave Villanueva all of his account information including his new home address. Villanueva says the man offered a two-year promotion where the customer pays $60 a month for all channels, but he needed to purchase a $300 Amazon gift card to pay for the first five months. As a gift, he would then receive a $100 gift card in return.
"He said, let's get you set up, so for all the channels you'll be paying $60 a month for two years for two years for 24 months. The only thing is for the first five months, you have to pay them up front. And the way you're going to do that is you're going to do it through Amazon because we have a promotion, they're part of the promotion too they're advertising their gift cards," Villanueva said.
Villanueva says he's been a DirecTV customer for 14 years and has always received offers for promotions. However as a precaution, he called the number back and it went directly to DirecTV.
"I would redial that number that he would call me from just to check it out and it would go straight to DirecTV and they would answer it and obviously it was a different person and they would give me information about my account," Villanueva said.
He eventually agreed to pay for the promotion, and was transferred to a "billing department" and even given a verification number. Villanueva says he was told the channels would kick in immediately but they never did.
"I started calling them to see what was going on, but they would transfer me to different people and nobody knew, they couldn't give me an answer," Villanueva said.
Villanueva says he has yet to be told if it was a scam, but was told DirecTV is investigating it.
"I should have gone with my gut, and said, well, this is a scam. But they made it so perfect," Villanueva said.
"Call the company, you call Amazon, you call DirecTV you call the customer service and you ask them listen I've just been offered this new deal, does it really exist or is it a scam? And chances that they will advance it well this is a scam, and you should not call them back," UTEP Professor Damien Van Puyvelde said.
Villanueva says he thought he was being cautious by calling the number back. Van Puyvelde says that's where it gets tricky. He advises people to call the number back but he says then go an extra step further, because scammers know how to spoof any number they want. Check the actual number, then go online and see if it matches the company's number and then call customer service directly.
"The crucial mistake here is that when you hang up you want to check, what the phone number is and for that check the internet and that precise number you're calling is the one that they said it was," Van Puyvelde said.
According to the Better Business Bureau's scam tracker, similar scams have been reported outside of Austin and outside of Corpus Christi.
ABC-7 has reached out to DirecTV and Amazon about the scam. Amazon has yet to comment, but DirecTV sent ABC-7 a statement saying, “AT&T-DirecTv does not solicit its customers for prepayments. If a customer feels a call is not legitimate, we encourage them to hang up and call back using the number on their AT&T DirecTV bill. We monitor our network for potential fraud activity and provide information about fraud scams on our website.
DirecTV also has information available online about prepaid scams. "In this scam someone pretending to be from AT&T/ DIRECTV calls you with a tremendous discount offer on your service if you prepay for a period of time outside of your normal contract. These fraudsters usually ask you to make payment via a pre-paid credit card or retail gift card, and may provide you with a toll free call back number to complete the transaction."
DirecTV then states, "Do not engage these callers. AT&T/ DIRECTV does not solicit prepayments via pre-paid cards or gift cards. Hang up immediately. If you are ever approached by a caller claiming to be from AT&T/ DIRECTV and you feel they may not be legitimate, hang up and call the toll free customer service number on your bill. Always be certain you are speaking with a legitimate AT&T/ DIRECTV representative about your service or any current offers. If your account does not already have one, we recommend placing a passcode on your account for added security."
The El Paso Police Department tells Abc-7 they have not been advised of any scams like this one, adding, "There are as many scams as there are crooks out there. There are trends that reemerge from time to time and we issue alerts on those recurrent scams as they resurface." The department says the best way to avoid being scammed is not to answer to anyone that a person didn't dial to initiate the call, or confirm any information, adding personal information isn't as private anymore.
"I guess sometimes we tend to ignore the clues, now looking back, there were plenty of clues I should have listened to or I should've paid attention to but I chose to ignore them and this is where it's ended me," Villanueva said.