New scam targets DirecTV customers

Published 9:24 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2018


“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

In this era of phone and internet scams, that’s the advice from law enforcement. The latest scam is an offer from “DirecTV,” which, according to Beaufort County resident Mac Smith, did sound too good to be true.

Last week, Smith said he received a phone call from someone claiming to be a representative of DirecTV. Smith has a DirecTV account; the offer being made was a substantial discount on the service: $59.95 for 24 months, as opposed to the more than $100 a month he pays. However, he said he quickly realized it was a scam when the person on the phone told him that in order to qualify for the discount, he’d have to pay five months in advance — with an Amazon gift card.

“The Amazon gift card is a red flag to begin with. DirecTV would not be interested in an Amazon gift card, but a scammer would be,” said Lt. Jim Vanlandingham, head of the criminal investigations division of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. Vanlandingham said any call in which someone asks for payment through gift cards such as Amazon or Green Dot is highly suspect. These include calls in which a “lawyer” calls to tell someone that a relative is in trouble and needs to be bailed out — with a Green Dot card.

“We’ve had a few of ‘my grandson or granddaughter’s in jail’ and a lawyer is calling them to get them out of jail,” Vanlandingham said. “Once you hand that (Green Dot) number off to them, the number they need to get that cash, your money is gone.”

Vanlandingham said there’s very little law enforcement can do once a person has given their money away except inform the FBI through the agency’s scam-reporting website. Though a number may appear to be local, and even appear to be from a legitimate company such as DirecTV, the scammers are not.

“It usually takes place in another state or overseas, which is essentially beyond our reach,” Vanlandingham said.

Smith said he probably gets six phone calls a week from numbers that have been associated with scams. He searches the numbers online, which is one way he verified the DirecTV offer was a scam; the other way was he called DirecTV directly and asked. Smith said he wanted to let people know about this particular scam because, in his internet searches, it did not appear to be well-known.

“I was afraid they might be calling other people in the area,” Smith said. “I would hate for anybody to get scammed out of that kind of money. Older people are more susceptible to it. I’m old, too, but I’ve learned how to check it out.”