CINCINNATI — With the cost of cell phone plans and streaming TV going up, wouldn't you like to lower that bill?
Unfortunately, one offer for a big discount is really a scam.
Thousands -- if not millions -- of people are receiving automated calls that appear to come from AT&T.
I checked my voicemail over the weekend and heard this automated message.
"Hi there! I am calling you from AT&T and DirecTV to let you know that your existing account is qualified for 50% off," the voicemail message said.
A half-price cell phone and TV package? It seemed like just what I could use, even though I don't have an "existing account" with either provider.
But I decided not to let that stop me from looking into this amazing discount offer.
So I called back, and a robo-agent asked for my account number and pin.
"Before you get started, I just need your PIN number," Robo-Mary told me.
Even though I don't have an AT&T account, I would not give out that information if I did.
Last year, Jackie Wilkinson got a similar call at her Mt. Healthy home.
"He asked, 'Do you want to save money?'" she told me. "Naturally, in this day and age, who doesn't want to save money? So I said yes, and he said, 'Great!'"
But Wilkinson's caller wanted her to send money first to claim her half-price discount package.
In Clermont County, Charlotte Harrison also got the call. She said it went from friendly to frightening very quickly.
The caller said that if she did not sign up for the new program, her satellite-TV service would be disconnected.
"I think it's awful, because it scared me," she said. "I said, 'I need to do this so I don't lose my TV.'"
Will AT&T really call you like this?
A few years ago these calls would concern your DirecTV or Dish Network account, but since most people don't have dishes anymore in this streaming age, they would just hang up.
Scammers now use the name and caller ID of AT&T, and with millions of people on the AT&T network, it's easy to believe your provider is calling you with a great new offer for their DirecTV streaming service.
So don't let this happen to you. The Better Business Bureau says ...
- Cell phone, satellite and cable providers will never call you about lowering your bill (I had Time Warner/Spectrum for 20 years and never got a call about lowering my bill).
- Providers will never ask for an upfront payment for an upgrade, especially via Apple or eBay gift cards.
- These are all scams, even if the caller ID shows your cell phone or TV provider.
- They will ask you to prepay, and steal whatever you send them.
When I tried to question the offer, and ask why they called me when I am not even an AT&T customer, the robo-agent would have nothing to do with me.
"Thanks for your time. Have a nice day," Robo Mary told me before hanging up.
AT&T says it will never call you to request your account number, PIN or Social Security Number (or ask you to call them back at a provided number with the same information).
If you want to lower your bill, give your provider a call.
Hang up if they call, so you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
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