12 On Your Side Alert: Fake census calls

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The BBB says the Census Bureau is not calling you. The organization put out a warning after an elderly women reports crooks tried to fool her with the call.

Tom Gallagher, President and CEO of the Richmond BBB says crooks could have your number. The latest deception - calls claiming to be from the Census Bureau-urging you to call back. He says, "All it could do is cost you money or your identity. Don't mess around with this stuff."

The BBB called the 800 number and says there is a twist. Tom says, "This is different because every time you dial it back you get a different game on the back end of it, a different scam." The call is definitely not from the Census. Tom says it appears to be from multiple companies, all using the same number but a different pitch.

The BBB sent out this press release:"Today a local resident notified the BBB that she had received a voicemail message from the "US Census Bureau." The message stated that the caller needed to speak with her immediately and included a phone number to call along with a "case number." When the consumer called the number, a recording told her that she had won a free cruise. At that point she hung up the phone and called the Senior Fraud hotline operated by the BBB.

Calls from the BBB to phone number 800.681.2012 were answered with two different recorded messages. The first was a recording about the free trip with instructions to press "1" to speak to an agent. After pressing "1," another recorded message said we had reached Summer Bay Resort in Orlando, Florida.

A second call was made by a Senior Fraud official. This time the recording indicated that free gift cards to Wal-Mart and Target had been won. Upon pressing "1" to speak to an agent, a young man answered. When asked for his company's name, he hesitated and then gave a different company name. When told that a previous message said Summer Bay Resort, he said it was the correct phone number. Further questions went unanswered and the agent hung up. Summer Bay Resort has an F rating with the BBB in Clearwater, Florida. "Be on the alert," said Tom Gallagher, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Central Virginia. "Don't fall prey to unscrupulous telemarketing calls."

We also called the 800 number and like the BBB, each time we got a recording with a company offering what the BBB calls bogus offers.

After the press release was sent, the BBB says it called the number several more times and got recordings from:

  • Summer Bay Resort – free vacation
  • Assist 123 – this company has an F rating with BBB in CA for intercepting/hijacking phone calls consumers make to legitimate businesses trying to reach customer service or billing. They also offer some type of subscription to phone numbers, directions, restaurant reviews. Here's a link to their report.
  • Caribbean Cruise Line – offers free cruise and the recording says consumers only have to pay the $59.00 port tax fee.
  • Rewards Hotline – free gift cards to Target/Wal-Mart etc..
  • Grocery Savings in Phoenix AZ – Another BBB called the number and got this information before the call was disconnected.

Tom says, "You are not going to get a gift card from Wal-Mart or a free cruise. What you are doing is verifying your telephone number and that it is a good number and maybe they will be using that to get a hold of you for some other reason. These folks are pros they know what they are doing. I don't understand their game yet but it will become evident soon enough.

To contact the BBB you can call Senior Fraud Hotline: 804.780.2222 or the Main Line: 804.648.0016. The website is http://richmond.bbb.org/

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