ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Fraudsters are scooping up canceled 800 phone numbers and are posing as the previous company to scam folks out of money. It's happened to the Department of Driver Services.
DDS had a toll-free number canceled. They did it to save taxpayers money, but now scammers are coming after your wallet using that very same number. This is how this phone conversation went.
SCAM CALL: Hello. Please listen carefully as our menu options may have changed.
Right off the bat this call sounds official. But quickly it doesn't.
SCAM CALL: Just for calling today you will have the opportunity to receive a $100 rebate voucher. Press 1 on your phone.
Shawn Conroy, with the state's consumer protection division, made this call - after getting consumer complaints - to the toll-free number that used to belong to Georgia's Department of Driver Services.
"We began to hear from consumers who had contacted what they thought was the Georgia Department of Driver Services using an 866 number that they found online," he told the Fox 5 I-Team.
But that number, once on the state's website, was canceled in 2015. And someone else down the road was assigned that same number.
"Unfortunately, some people with not good motives misled the callers to that number into believing that they were the Department of Driver Services," said Mr. Conroy.
Keep reading as state investigators taped these scammers trying to get money from callers.
SCAMMER: My name is Wilbur and I will be helping you claim our rewards today.
STATE: Hi Wilbur, I'm a little confused. This isn't the Georgia Department of Driver Services, right?
SCAMMER: Yes, sir. Yes, sir, you got the right number and every time you press 1 you come to my department.
STATE: Ahhh, I gotcha.
SCAMMER: I can definitely get you reconnected to the other department, OK.
But he doesn't. Not yet. The scammer has come too far to let you off the hook this easily.
STATE: I was trying to get a question answered about my driver's license.
SCAMMER: Alright, not a problem. As soon as we finish with the reward I can get you some help.
STATE: I gotcha.
SCAMMER: You have the ability to get a $100 shopping reward or a $50 diner's certificate for restaurants.
STATE: Well, do I have to pay for this?
SCAMMER: The only thing you have to handle is the registration fee that is $1.95.
And this is where they ask for your credit card information. And that's your cue to hang up.
A group called SOMOS is the administrator appointed by the FCC to manage the more than 41 million toll-free numbers in the US and Canada. It agreed with the state that a scammer had got control of the number. So, in December SOMOS decided that there will be a 45-day waiting period before any number can be reassigned. But here's what state investigators learned from Call for Action at an information sharing conference about SOMOS.
"They are offering the ability to contact them if a law enforcement organization learns the phone number is being misused. They will shut it down," said Conroy.
Here's where you can help the state. The toll-free number is long gone from the DDS website, but other sites reposted it years ago as a helpful contact number. So, despite it being canceled, it lives a long life on the internet. When you see a number is no longer working tell the source so they can pull it down.
And lastly, when you're looking for a toll-free number, make sure you get it directly off the organization or the company's website and that way you know it belongs to the organization you're trying to reach.