Wednesday, June 13, 2012

magicJack A Handy Tool For Overseas Rent Scams & Other Ripoffs To Hide Behind Local Area Codes When Targeting Victims

In Hollywood, Florida, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports:

  • Scammers from overseas could try to con you out of money using a new trick — calling from what you think is a local area code, prosecutors warn. It happened to Stuart Brisgel, 41, a financial adviser, who planned to sell his four-bedroom house in an upscale Hollywood neighborhood, when a scammer in Nigeria had plans of his own.

  • The scammer, possibly using legitimate information Brisgel posted online, was trying to rent the house for $800 a month to unsuspecting victims who didn't know the house wasn't actually for rent. Brisgel learned about the plan after a pregnant woman who had seen the rental posting on Craigslist came to check out the house and, perplexed by the "for sale" sign, called the real estate agent.

  • The scammer had set up a fake email address using Brisgel's name to correspond with potential victims. Using the IP address, Brisgel found out the scammer was in Nigeria. But the phone number provided had an Alabama area code.
  • Last winter, the attorney general in Mississippi warned consumers there about overseas fraud from callers in India using local area codes in attempts to extort money from Americans. And a woman in Santa Fe told police she had been swindled out of nearly $100,000 she had wired to someone in exchange for collecting millions of dollars in prizes that never came. The caller had a New Mexico area code but the calls originated from Jamaica.

  • In all of the cases, the callers were using magicJack, a telephone device made by a company with corporate headquarters in West Palm Beach. The device can be plugged into overseas phones so calls can be made using a U.S. area code. It is intended to allow somebody abroad — such as an American student in Europe — to make calls to the U.S. at a local rate.

  • When Brisgel searched the phone number with the Alabama area code on Google, he found an alarming post: "owner of this number is a scammer, cheat and a fraud — performing rental scams via Craigslist using this number!" A further Internet search revealed that the owner of that number was magicJack.
  • In the Mississippi case, a resident received a call from the 407 area code from someone who said he was a police officer in Orlando. He told the woman there was a warrant out for her arrest and she would be picked up the next day if she did not pay to settle the charge.

  • The call was really coming from India. At the request of the Mississippi Attorney General's Office, magicJack helped verify the scam and disconnected the phone number.

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