If you're going to scam through Verizon, do it on a weekend

It started with what I thought were a few wrong numbers. Someone would call and say that they were returning my call, when I didn’t actually call them. I thought nothing of it.

Then I started getting more of these calls. Then they started leaving messages. I assumed that someone messed up and gave out my phone number as theirs accidentally.

Then it got serious. Turns out, these people weren’t writing down a phone number they heard in a message…they were using Caller ID to “return” the call.

Most callers had very heavy Indian accents so it was difficult to understand what they were calling about, or why they thought I called them. Finally, this morning it started making sense when I spoke with a woman whose English was good.

It seems that someone got ahold of a list of patients from a local doctor. Of course I won’t say the name of the doctor, but it appears that she has a large Indian clientele (and the doctor’s name is Indian-sounding herself) which explains the language barrier. The scammer has been calling the patients, claiming to be from the doctor’s office, and telling the victims that their file is incomplete and he’s asking them for additional personal information…like their birthdate and social security numbers. When he calls, the caller ID is my phone number.

I spoke to the doctor’s office this morning. They had just learned about this too, from patients who complained late yesterday. All of the people who work for the office are female, so there’s no chance anyone associated with the office made these phone calls.

I went through my caller ID history (I was rarely home when these calls came in) and listed 12 “return” phone calls from midday Tuesday until today. I didn’t realize just how many there were, since many didn’t leave messages when they heard my residential-sounding voicemail (I could tell by the Indian names). I doubt the scammer left my phone number in their message. They probably asked the person to call another number, and instead the victim just recalled the number to get me.

Now with enough information to know crimes are being committed, I called Verizon. Or I tried. There isn’t a single human being taking non-repair calls on a Saturday. I spoke to someone at Repair, who said…and I quote, “What do you want me to do about it? Your phone is working.” I called the police. They can’t do anything until the phone company gets involved. She said, “I can send an officer if you want, but they can’t file a report until the phone company is in.” It’s only my phone number…if an officer should make a visit, it’s to the doctor’s office that had their files stolen.

I even tried calling a local Verizon Wireless store, thinking they had a “behind the scenes” way to get through to the mothership on off hours. Nope, no such luck.

So there you go. If you want to commit a crime by hacking into a telephone, do it on Saturday. You’ll get off scot free until Monday morning when the business office opens.

In the meantime, I’m changing the voicemail on my phone to say that if you believe I’ve called you asking for any personal information, you’ve been the victim of a crime. It wasn’t me. Call the police. Just not Verizon if it’s a weekend.

If anyone knows a way to get Verizon to take this seriously before Monday morning, let me know, okay? Who knows how many victims this guy is piling up as I blog.

Update: Turns out that the doctor’s billing office was making the calls. So no crime committed. But we still have absolutely no explanation as to why my phone number is showing up on their caller ID.