Business Opinion

Consumer Diary: Slick Attempts at Phone Scams

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Consumer columnist and West Hartford resident Harlan Levy has more than 20 years of experience writing stories about everyday experiences that anyone could encounter. Today’s topic is phone scams.

Harlan Levy. Courtesy photo

By Harlan Levy

Recently I received two back-to-back phone calls to our landline that might have been scams, although they appeared nominally legitimate, both offers to reduce our monthly bills. You should think twice if you get these or similar deceptively slick calls.

The first came, apparently, from our cable provider Xfinity offering to lower our bill with cheaper and faster internet service and substituting Xfinity mobile for our AT&T cellphone account. It seemed believable, since earlier in the day we had been talking to an Xfinity tech support guy, complaining about annoying and disruptive intermittent loss of internet access.

“Paul” asked if we were over 50 (we are) and verified our address. Then he asked our monthly bill total. With six family phones on our account, it’s usually $365. Paul said he can reduce it to “$175 with super fast Blast internet service and Xfinity mobile.” That was hard to believe. He then asked for my cell phone number. I started, saying “860,” when my wife shouted, “Don’t give it to him. It sounds fishy.”

I told Paul that I had to call him back, because, I lied, it was time for a daily injection. He gave me his phone number, 929-468-8171, and his Xfinity ID number, 786F.

I then called Xfinity and learned, first, that ID numbers only have three digits and second, that the offer was indeed a scam. I then called Paul’s number. Marshall, in “Billing” answered, saying, “I offer discounts, promotions for seniors who are 50-plus years old and on a fixed income, who have trouble paying their bills. We can charge a specific amount … I can charge you $249, and cancel your usual bill. And if you get a bigger bill,” he said, “call me, and I can supervise your account.”

This sounded preposterous, but I went along.

“First,” he said, “Give me your Xfinity account number and your checking account routing number so I can pay your reduced bill.”

“Sorry, Marshall,” I said silently. “I’m not crazy, and I’m not giving you access to my money!”

So, don’t be fooled.

Electric bills

Call No. 2 was from a recorded voice saying I’ve been paying too much for electricity, and if I want a $50 refund, press 1. Usually I hang up, figuring it’s a scam.

This time I wanted to make sure, since I’ve read recent stories about honest efforts to reduce electric bills. So I pressed 1, and “Judy” said that I deserved a 35% discount. I asked where she was calling from. After putting me on hold briefly she said Eversource. I then asked why I deserved the 35% discount. No answer. I repeated my question. No answer. Then Judy hung up.

I then emailed Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross to get his response.

“That is absolutely a scam!!” he wrote me. “We’re not in the power-selling business. We urge anyone who has doubts about the legitimacy of a call, visit, or an offer regarding their power to contact us directly at 1-800-286-2000. And the only site to find third-party suppliers and their current offers is EnergizeCT.com.”

So it was a good day to reveal to We-Ha.com readers two possibly convincing ripoffs.

West Hartford resident Harlan Levy has been a consumer columnist for more than 20 years. He concentrates on revealing notable personal experiences and everyday consumer situations that either he or his wife encounter — sometimes ridiculous, outrageous, or downright laughable. But all relate to most readers’ common predicaments, including damaged goods and unresponsive sellers, unwanted automatic renewals, and various deceptive, insidious scams. He offers analysis, warnings, and practical solutions and advice.

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