By Sabina Mollot
By now, there is probably not a single New Yorker, or even a single person living in the country with a phone who hasn’t been on the receiving end of some sort of scam pitch. The popular ones being Con Ed, the Department of the Treasury, the IRS and Microsoft.
But some callers seem more plausible than others in their attempts to get money from their marks, in particular those who spout names of familiar companies that are actually used by the victims and find out the names and sometimes other information about the people they’re calling.
For those reasons, Peter Cooper Village Josef Schreick believed it at first when someone claiming to be an Apple employee called his landline, warning him his computer had a virus that was putting all his other Apple devices at risk.
So he called back the number the caller gave him as instructed, and a heavily accented man who introduced himself as Chris Morris answered. Shreick’s phone number is listed publicly, so “Chris” knew Schreick’s address and also knew (or guessed correctly) that he subscribed to Spectrum, making him seem more legit. After informing him his devices were at risk of being infected, the man told Schreick the cost for repairs would be $200, to be paid in Apple iTunes gift cards.
“I’m savvy, but I’m not that savvy,” admitted Schreick, although he soon became more suspicious when the man insisted on staying in touch with Schreick as he went to the store. “Chris” also for some reason, insisted Schreick get the iTunes cards at Duane Reade and not CVS or Walgreens. At one point, he even asked his mark if he was close to the store, like in the parking lot. This naturally spooked Schreick, who informed the man, “I don’t drive. I live in New York City.” Perhaps attempting to reassure him, the caller then attempted to make small talk.
“Chris asked me about 9/11 and if I thought it was a CIA act,” said Schreick. “I said, ‘Look, this is a conversation I’m not comfortable having with you.”
Soon, the conversation drifted back to payment, since iTunes gifts cards are redeemed through a code on the cards that’s readable after purchase. After Schreick bought the cards, he insisted on getting off the phone, since at that point he was still in public, saying he’d call “Chris” back with the information. However, already feeling suspicious, he strolled over to the T-Mobile store, where an employee confirmed Schreick’s suspicions that the number he was told to call, as well as a secondary number he was given, were both on a list of fraudulent numbers. The numbers were 855-831-4413 and 760-621-0932.
Schreick actually called the first number back as he said he would, this time to let the scammer know he wasn’t about to be duped.
“I called and said, ‘This is a scam, and you guys are in big trouble.’ Of course I heard a click.”
He then alerted police, who wondered if scammers might be targeting local phone numbers at the moment, as well as Stuyvesant Town’s Public Safety department.
When a Town & Village reporter called the first number given to Schreick, a message played stating an agent would soon come to the phone to be of assistance and then played music, but no one picked up after a couple of minutes.
People who reported getting a call from this number on the website 800notes.com, a consumer-contributed reverse lookup phone number database, reported the caller either claiming to be from Microsoft or Apple, to report problems with a customer’s computer.
The second number Schreick was given, when Town & Village called, wasn’t working.
Scam phone calls are a problem that’s showing no sign of abatement, and the NYPD warns that no matter how scary a threat seems, whether it’s about shutting off power or an arrest over unpaid taxes or immigration status, no legitimate payment is ever made via gift card or Green Dot Money Pak cards. On caller ID, callers can even appear to be from legitimate companies or as numbers that appear local but are actually spoofed and often from overseas.