US satellite TV scam targets Hispanics

Gabriel Miramar-Garcia | 09-11-2012

A scam is making the rounds in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, targeting Hispanic satellite TV subscribers. Fraudsters are offering a fake subscription to DirecTV for only $365 per year—a dollar per day. And, the satellite company would throw in a free preview of premium channels.

The deal, of course, was too good to be true. But for residents like Miguel Fajardo, whose story was reported by Paul Muschick, a consumer watchdog reporter for local newspaper the Allentown Morning Call, it seemed reasonable that DirecTV "appreciated his being a customer, and wanted to offer him a deal." Especially since several channels were unlocked in his service following the agreement—just not by DirecTV.
Muschick reports that an unsolicited phone call led to Farjardo, a resident of Allentown, Pa., being bilked out of the money upfront, with the caller insisting that he pay with a GreenDot prepaid card. But the money never made it to DirecTV, nor was the deal in any way originated by DirecTV.
Farjardo's niece, Kensy Dubon of Bethlehem, told Muschick the story, adding that the victim is "out more than a week's pay. For him, it's very depressing."
Nonetheless, it leaves the mystery of how the caller was able to turn on new channels for Farjardo, who insists that he didn't give the caller his account number. Muschick said that DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer blamed social engineering—scammers can easily extract required information without the person even knowing what's happening.
"They may call at random and ask a series of questions and ultimately trick the customer into giving up just enough information to allow the fraudsters to access their account," Mercer told me in an e-mail.
The scam is actually not new, and has been making the rounds for a while. Hispanics make a nice target for crooks because they are often interested in moving up a tier or subscribing to satellite in order to gain access to Spanish-language channels and international sports. Also, if English is a second language for the mark, it works in the scammers' favour.
It's not just television that is seeing such tactics. A similar threat targets Scammers posing as MidAmerican Energy customer service reps call customers and tell them their account is past due and immediate payment is required to avoid disconnection. The scammer then asks for the customer's credit card or debit information to complete payment.