News : Spark Launches Scam Line
Oct 15, 2014 -- Aggressive fraudsters threatened to disconnect a Timaru woman's broadband if she did not reveal personal details.
Lee O'Neill said scammers claiming to represent telecommunications company Spark told her there were problems with her internet, even though she was surfing the web as they spoke.
O'Neill is one of several South Cantabrians the Timaru Herald is aware of who has been called by people posing as Spark workers in the last month.
The scam has prompted the company to set up a new anti-scam service.
Spark channel operations manager Richard Harrison said Spark would "never ring customers out of the blue and ask them for any form of personal information, particularly bank details".
"I've had lots of scams on the phone," O'Neill said, "but this one had a different slant to it". The call began with a man with a strong foreign accent.
"I couldn't understand a word he was saying, but I could make out the word 'Spark'."
Although she was suspicious, she thought it plausible the man could be from a call centre because "we don't talk to English people any more".
When O'Neill said she believed the men were scammers, they took on "a much more aggressive attitude".
"He said, 'in five minutes, you will have no broadband'. I said 'go ahead'."
O'Neill worried some of her elderly friends would fall for the scam.
"They'd be beside themselves without broadband."
Spark spokesperson Richard Llewellyn said the fraudsters had asked some customers to give them remote access to their computers and banking details, and to take their phones off the hook for three days. In some cases, the scammers gave out fake 'employee numbers' to reassure their targets.
Spark customers who doubted a phone call's legitimacy could call 123 then dial nine to reach the company's new scam help line.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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