Cell phone scam: what's the scam?

I just got a text message on my Verizon cell phone:

“To avoid interruption of your Verizon Wireless service, please call 888-821-0284 or press the send key on your phone. This is a free text message.”

I did not call, I did not press send (I have not yet contacted Verizon yet, either). I googled the 888 number; from the results, I found this page, where someone else got the same text message. As they’ve noted, this appears to be a scam, But I don’t yet understand what the scam is.

Anyone know?


I like this guys signature.

Thanks for the info. I did plan to contact Verizon directly, but before doing so I wanted to understand more about what I might be dealing with.

After being bombarded for years by phishing emails with generic warnings of account suspension and requests for password verification via suspicious URL’s, I was suspicious of such a generic text message; there was absolutely no specific information about what the problem was, and that’s usually the first hallmark of some kind of phishing scam.

I did call Verizon after posting here, and it turned out to be just a billing error that needed to be sorted out.

Does this describe the scam:[ul]
[li]Verizon sends a message to customer, but in a format that resembles common scam messages.[/li][li]Customer thinks it’s scam, ignores it.[/li][li]Since customer has not responded, Verizon cuts off customer’s service.[/li][li]Customer calls Verizon about non-working phone.[/li][li]Verizon gets info from customer, restores service.[/li][li]Verizon charges customer reconnect fee, because “we notified you, and you failed to respond”.[/li][li]Customer, needing phone service, pays fee.[/li][li]Ka-ching for Verizon![/li][/ul]

Yeah, there’s a scam here – being run by Verizon.

When I’ve had problems like this, I’ve usually gotten a call from an actual human at Verizon, and they’ve always been understanding when I say I want to call them back before giving out anything like credit card numbers.

But of course, that could be a scam, too. And really, if there’s some sort of problem with your billing, they pretty much have to contact you, and no matter what format or medium they use to contact you, scammers are going to copy it, so their legitimate communications will always look like scams.

Be wary about anonymous online forums’ explanations such as 800notes; in the past I’ve heard of scammers peppering the first couple of Google results for their phone number or business with good (and fake) reviews. The first wave of defense against scams was “search about them and see if it looks legit,” so they adapted to that. Note that the 800notes page is a mixture of very positive and very negative reviews and is far from consensus.

I would absolutely call Verizon billing first, using a number they’ve put on your physical bill, before replying to this, to verify. Better safe than sorry.

Hats off to you, sir! You are a true marketing genius!

The way to do a scam of this is pretty easy, actually. When someone calls the number, the guy on the other end pretends to be Verizon, explains that there is a problem in the billing, and requests to get your credit card information again. A lot of people will fall for this, not realizing that the real company would go to great lengths to authenticate themselves, if they’d even ask for that sensitive of information at all.

And, yes, contacting the company directly from a published phone number is the best way to check these types of things, although looking up the callback number isn’t a bad idea, either.

As it happens, I chose to call the 800 number on my phone bill, rather than the (different) 800 number that appeared in the text message.