BILL BROOKS: A rarity — this is no scam

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It seems some bad actors, calling on behalf of Dish Network, the pay TV service, have been found guilty of violating federal law. According to the terms of the ruling in a class-action lawsuit, anyone with one of the 18,066 phone numbers that were listed on the National Do Not Call Registry but still dialed up by Dish Network telemarketers between May 11, 2010, and Aug. 1, 2011, could receive $400 for each call, up to $1,200.

To see if your phone number is eligible, go to: https://bit.ly/2I4vGPu

If it is, you must submit a payment form no later than June 18 to receive your share of the $61 million judgment. Check it out. If you get some dough, you can take me to lunch!

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REPORTING SCAM NUMBERS: If I had a nickel...

Honestly, if I had a nickel for every time one of my readers called me to report a number from which they received a robocall, well, I wouldn’t be rich, but I could go on a pretty nice vacation. Here’s what happens when the scammer buys a VOIP (voice over internet protocol) telephone number, over the Internet, using a computer.

It takes about five minutes to “buy” a number. During the transaction, the purchaser, in this case, the scammer, is asked for a phone number and name to be displayed on caller ID. At this point, the scammer can enter any name and phone number they desire — like “Internal Revenue Service” and a 202 area code, spoofing that the call is coming from Washington, D.C.

In reality, the call is coming from anyplace, even right here in North Idaho. By the way, the whole process takes about five minutes to complete and costs around $5. Sometimes scammers will change their displayed name and telephone number two or three times PER DAY! It’s therefore no wonder that authorities can’t catch them. That’s why it doesn’t do any good to report the number that is displayed by caller ID. (It can also defeat some phones that have the ability to block certain numbers.)

To prove the point, recently I had a woman call me around lunchtime, and she was angry. She asked me why I had called her six times that morning, trying to sell her an extended warranty for her car. Obviously, I had not called her, but someone had picked my name AND telephone number to be displayed when they (the robocaller) called her and others.

Remember, one robocall machine can make upwards of 140,000 PER HOUR. Just think, a bank of these machines could call 1,400,000 per hour — that’s 16,800,000 in a 12-hour period!

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QUICK TIP: There is no free 1-year subscription to Amazon Prime. If you get an email like this, delete it and do not call or click on it. (Thanks Jennifer!)

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ACTUAL CONSUMER EMAIL: The following is an actual email I received this week from a very alert consumer. She recognized and avoided a nasty scam. Here’s the email:

“I had an item on Craigslist. I received a text from a person saying they wanted to buy what I had on Craigslist. The caller just had to have it! He said he was going to send me a Google Verification so he could verify that I was a real person and not just a computer. I did get a Google Verification Code number texted to me. He then texted me an email address that looked like it was from his military base and said to please e-mail the verification code to him because he wasn’t allowed to use a cell phone. I replied back that I didn’t understand what he wanted me to do, and that I wasn’t going to send it to him. I knew there were too many scams going on. So then he texted me saying he wanted to buy my item I had for sale right now, and that he just wanted the verification code to verify I was a real person. I said no again.

“I looked up ‘Google Verification Code’ on the Internet. It looks like these codes are used for people who forget their passwords. Google sends you a verification code to prove it’s you then they help you with passwords. If I had sent the verification code to him I assume he would use that to try to get my passwords since he had my cell phone number and the Google verification code and would have had my e-mail address as well.”

Great job! Always be suspicious — very suspicious when you decide to use Craigslist or eBay!

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REMEMBER: You have no guaranteed protection when you complete a transaction using cash gift cards or iTunes cards — none! Always use a credit card. Every charge that I, or a reader, put “in contest” with the credit card company has been refunded at least temporarily. It takes about 90 days, but once “in contest” you do not have to pay the charge until the matter is investigated and you are informed of the findings. I actually put one charge in contest that was ruled legitimate by the card company. I appealed the finding and 90 days later it was resolved in my favor. Don’t give up!

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THIS COULD SAVE YOU SOME SERIOUS $$$: It seems that Verizon has introduced a new program called “Visible” that is offering subscribers “unlimited data, minutes and messaging for only $40 per month.” That sounds pretty good to me. You’ve got to download the Visible app, and make application to the program. Once you’re approved, Verizon will send you a sim card. Once that is installed in your unlocked phone, you will be able to access Verizon’s 4G LTE network to stream videos, send texts and make calls without limit and no “throttling down.”

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LIMITED AVAILABILITY: Starting this Wednesday, I’m taking a few days off. For those of you who know what I’ve been up to for the past few months, you’ll understand. I need a break. I will continue to write my column twice each week and you can leave me messages. I will return all calls.

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REMEMBER BILL BROOKS: “He’s On Your Side”

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I have many more tips and interesting cases that I’m working on. Call me at (208) 699-0506, or email me at BillBrooksAdvocate@gmail.com (#GoGetEmBillBrooks) You can follow me at www.billbrooksconsumeradvocate.com. I am available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups. Bill Brooks is a consumer advocate and the Broker and Owner of Bill Brooks Real Estate in Coeur d’Alene.

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