Fake phone reps scam Juneau

Callers say they're testing the line, then gain unauthorized access to system

Posted: Friday, November 02, 2001

The Regulatory Commission of Alaska is warning Juneau residents to watch out for fraudulent calls from people saying they are AT&T representatives.

Edward Williams, a communications engineer specialist with the commission, said a Juneau resident recently alerted him to the scam.

He said the fake representative will act as though he or she is testing the phone line and coerce people to accept collect call charges, which gives the fraudulent caller access to their phone systems.

Cathy Opinsky, external affairs representative for AT&T Alascom, said the fake representatives mostly target businesses by calling about supposed trouble with the lines.

"These people target businesses because the scam seems to only work on systems that have transferring capability." she said. "We try to warn people that this is out there and to let them know a phone company would never call a customer to check lines."

Opinsky said officials call this the "nine zero pound scam." She said most businesses that have a private branch exchange system also have the capability to transfer a caller to an outside line. They do this by pressing "nine" to get an outside line, "zero" to get an operator and then the pound key to complete the transaction.

"Once they get access to an outside line like that there is nothing we can do," Opinsky said. "Because the operator will see the number from the business they will think it is a legitimate number. So if the caller says, 'I want to place a call to Tahiti,' it will go through and the business will be charged for it."

Williams said people can be targeted at home as well. He said a recording asks the recipient to wait on the line for an important message. The caller prompts the recipient to accept a collect call but says he or she will not be billed for it. The recipient is then asked to wait on the line, he said. Williams said recipients should hang up right away.

To report the scam, call the help center at the regulatory commission at (907) 269-5016 or 465-1818. Williams said recipients of calls also can put the caller on hold and transfer him or her to the help center.

Melanie Plenda can be reached at mplenda@juneauempire.com.

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