New twist on old scam

Monday, March 7, 2011

No good intention goes unabused, it seems.

The latest is the Nebraska Relay, which, according to its website, is a "free public service for communication between standard (voice) users and persons who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind and speech-disabled using text telephones (TTYs) or PCs via the Internet."

It's a worthy enterprise, though perhaps less needed with the advent of other web-based communications.

But, like all communications, it is open to abuse, especially because it ensures confidentiality and masks a caller's accent.

Those latter two aspects came into play with a new scam reported by the Omaha World-Herald on Friday.

According to the story, a caller used the relay system to place a large order for food, $1,272 worth, to be picked up Saturday. And, by the way, could the restaurant please add $980 to the bill, and wire it to the caller so he could pay a courier service to pick up the food?

The caller switched to cell-phone texting after the initial contact, then played on the cafe's sympathy by posing as a lung cancer patient planning a party for his mother.

Luckily, the restaurant co-owner caught on when the MasterCard number he gave didn't match the card; after the co-owner had the card frozen, the caller tried it again with a Discover Card number.

Besides her own restaurant, the co-owner said she was concerned about many of her customers, retirees, who might have their cards stolen.

While it's an new twist on theft, there's certainly nothing new about the TTY scam. It's just a reminder that whenever money is involved, one can never be too careful.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: