This morning I got a call from 866-961-3530 from a woman identifying herself as working for Verizon. She claimed that there had been a server crash at the business billing office and that the programmers had corrected this by putting the lines on a residential server temporarily.
There was a lot of background chatter, making me think she was calling from a boiler room operation. I asked her how she could authenticate herself, and she said she was Carey Howe ID 3703. That was not convincing at all, but I listened to the rest of the pitch.
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She told me that the programmers didn't know that moving the lines back to the business server would require third-party verification under FCC rules. She asked me to get onto the line with a third-party verifier and accept their change of service, except that it wouldn't actually mean a change of service. She claimed that MLDI was Verizon's long-distance subsidiary, and that none of what was going to be said was actually relevant, since this was a special case and the verification script couldn't be changed to accommodate it.
At this point, there were alarm bells going off in my head, but I was curious to see what would happen. She switched me to the third-party verifier, Capitol Verification Services, and when the verifier told her to clear the line the boiler-room noise continued. Hunh. The verifier asked me if the noise was coming from my line, I said no, and I was switched back to "Carey" for more information. She claimed that her phone had malfunctioned when she tried to clear the line. More alarm bells went off.
She called the verifier again, got through, and this time actually did clear the line when requested. I went through the whole shtick with the verifier, saying yes to transferring my lines to MLDI, which "is independent of Verizon." The alarm bells got louder. The verifier called me back from 866-928-0489, and I agreed that, yes, I am Martin Heller.
At this point, I couldn't believe that I hadn't hung up on the whole scam in the first 30 seconds -- but I hadn't. The pitch was just convincing enough to make me go through the motions, even though it didn't feel right.
I immediately called Verizon directly (which is what I probably should have done first) and reported that I thought I'd been scammed. The Verizon customer service representative listened to my description, confirmed it as a scam, said "There's a lot of fraud out there," and put a freeze on all my lines so that the scammer's request for my lines couldn't go through. According to Verizon customer service, these third-party requests for lines take a couple of days, and no harm would be done. There was another third-party verification step to confirm the line freeze, but this time the lines were all clear and the verification script exactly matched what I really wanted. I think all I've lost is half an hour of my time, but who knows?
When I did a Google search for MLDI, I found a site that listed all sorts of scams coming from 866-961-3530, some of them for MLDI and Verizon, some of them for MLDI and AT&T, and some for other pitches -- phony MasterCards wanting personal information, phony Yellow Pages wanting personal information, some of them hang-ups.
I had a lot of trouble with "slammers" stealing my lines and trying to charge me ridiculous amounts of money before the days of third-party verifiers and line freezes, but apparently the arms war between the legitimate telephone companies and the scam artists has escalated. Don't be taken in.