Telephone scam may be coming this way

The Craig Police Department is warning local businesses about a new telephone scam that may give callers access to customers' long distance lines.

The scam artists identify themselves as service technicians who are conducting a test on the telephone line. The caller then asks the customer to touch nine, zero and the pound sign and hang up.

Dialing the nine, zero, pound combination may give the requesting individual full access to the telephone line, which then may enable them to place long distance calls that will be billed back to the original phone number, said Rebecca Tennille, Qwest spokesperson.

"Businesses, hospitals and government agencies are targeted. Places where calls come into a central switch, and are then transferred to individual lines," she said.

Because residential customers do not have a central switch, they should not be affected by this scam, said Tennille.

Although there have been no local reports of this scam, large businesses are the primary target, said Sergeant Bill Leonard of the Craig Police Department.

"The only real way for this to work is if the phone line requires a nine to dial out," he said. "The main targets are big businesses."

But the bottom line is never to give personal information or follow instructions over the phone if something doesn't sound right, Leonard said.

"Technology is there these days, so technicians can repair things without involving the customer," he said. "Generally, a phone technician wouldn't call a customer and ask them to do something like this."

Telephone companies never ask customers for assistance in conducting tests, Tennille said.

A few simple steps may prevent local residents and business owners from falling victim to this type of telephone scam.

"Ask the technician for a call-back number, then hang up and call them back," Tennille said. "Probe the caller for an employee ID number or their supervisor's name."

The most important thing people can do to protect themselves from scams is to question things when they don't seem right, Leonard said.

"Lots of these scams make people afraid when they really shouldn't be, but it also helps to remind people to be aware," Tennille said.

To report a scam, contact the Craig Police Department at 826-2360.

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