NEWELL, W.Va. - Callers to a toll-free number for Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort recently got a surprise when they found themselves the victims of a scam, the West Virginia Attorney General's Office said.
The callers apparently misdialed the number and, instead of reaching Mountaineer, got a sales agent offering special deals on travel packages, gift cards and other products for a small fee payable by credit card, said Matthew Stonestreet, spokesman for Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw Jr.
Some customers asked whether the offers were affiliated with Mountaineer, but the fraud perpetrators avoided the subject and never denied affiliation. "They pretended to be the racetrack," Stonestreet said.
Mountaineer officials contacted the attorney general after learning of the calls, realizing that customers had misdialed the correct number by only one digit, he said.
"Several people" fell victim to the scam, and the attorney general's office is waiting for others to come forward, Stonestreet said. The amount of money taken is unknown, he said.
Stonestreet referred to the scheme as a standard "phishing scam," where the perpetrators try to obtain identifying or sensitive financial information so they can steal money.
"The disturbing thing about this phishing scam is that, instead of someone contacting you, you're actually the person contacting the scam artist," he said. "They have figured out a way for you to contact them, which automatically makes them a more trusted entity."
Stonestreet said such scam artists are sophisticated enough to figure out which numbers are the most commonly misdialed ones. "So they pick that number and run their scam," he said. "They put a lot of effort into these things."
The silver lining in this particular scam is that credit cards have excellent fraud protection, Stonestreet said. Most have a maximum liability of $50. In the case of debit cards, any fraud should be reported within 60 days.
"If you report it soon enough, you should be protected," he said.
McGraw said consumers should be wary of anyone who asks for credit card information over the telephone. Even in situations where the consumer has placed the call, it's a good idea to check the identity of the person on the telephone before giving out personal information, he said.
Investigators with the attorney general's office are still determining where the phone number originated from, Stonestreet said. They may be able, with the phone company's help, to stop it from being used, he said.
People who believe they have been the victim of a scam should contact the attorney general's Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-800-368-8808 or by going to the Web site: www.wvago.gov.