DETROIT – Have you received any of those annoying “AT&T DirecTV” scam phone calls? Possibly even, like, 100 of them? Michigan’s attorney general is trying to put a stop to the “illegal robocalls.”
“We are doing everything we can to track down and stop the persons or entities responsible for causing Michiganders to endure these illegal robocalls,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “If you receive a call offering you a massive discount on DirecTV services, consider the possibility it’s a scam.”
How the scam works
If you’ve been fortunate enough not to receive these calls just about every day, here’s how the scam works, according to Nessel.
The robocalls offer people a 50% discount on a DirecTV subscription. They’re designed to seem legitimate, complete with a hold message claiming to be from AT&T.
But the calls aren’t from AT&T. They’re from scammers.
When successful, the calls trick customers into initiating the service. The scammer says an upfront cost must be pre-paid to start the service.
It’s an example of a gift card scam. Money is loaded onto a gift card and the numbers on that card are provided to the scammer over the phone. Those transactions can’t be reversed, so they’re a favorable option for anyone who doesn’t want their scam traced, Nessel said.
In the first nine months of 2021, consumers reported losing $148 million in gift card scams, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Nessel targets robocalls
Nessel has issued subpoenas that will allow the Attorney General’s Office to learn more about the “AT&T DirecTV” scam. Her goal is to put a stop to it entirely.
Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Joyce Draganchuk authorized Nessel to issue the subpoenas based on a petition that shows more than a half-million calls linked to this particular spoofing campaign are coming into Michigan each month.
The petition also claims thinQ Technologies, Inc. was an originating Voice over Internet Protocol service provider that brought the calls into the country’s telephone network during certain time periods. The company is headquartered in North Carolina.
The identity of other originating or point of entry service providers for the calls is under investigation, according to Nessel.
“VoIP services convert your voice into a digital signal that travels over the Internet,” the petition says. “VoIP service providers route outgoing and incoming calls, converting the digital signal to a regular telephone signal before it reaches the destination.
“These services are a cheap way for robocallers to make millions of scam calls from anywhere in the world, in a matter of minutes. The purposes of this investigation are to ascertain the unknown caller respondent’s true identity and location; the identities of unknown VoIP provider respondents causing the illegal robocalls to be made; and to obtain documents and records relevant to respondent thinQ’s business practices in relation to the fake ‘AT&T DirecTV’ calls.”
Gift card scams
The FTC recommends that if you paid a scammer with a gift card:
- Report gift card scams to the gift card issuer. When you contact the gift card company, tell them the gift card was used in a scam. Ask them if money is still on the card, and if they can refund your money.
- If you act quickly enough, the company might be able to get your money back, but be aware that some companies will not return any money, even if the gift card hasn’t been used.
- Keep the physical gift card and the receipt. Notify the store you purchased the gift card from right away.