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Archive for Thursday, June 8, 1995

FIRM WARNS OF TELEPHONE SCAM

June 8, 1995

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Repeat phone calls from someone who refuses to identify his company have employees at one local business wondering what's up.

Someone has been trying to send parts to Starfire Engineering for the company's copy machine. The problem is, the company doesn't want them.

Melissa Spurlock, manager for information graphics at Starfire, 2429 Iowa, said the company decided to make information about the calls public out of concern for other businesses.

"We're just afraid that other people will be taken," she said.

Spurlock said that for the last year the company had been receiving about a call a month concerning its copying machine. In each of the calls the caller gives a first name and says he is from "customer service." The caller then asks how the machine is working and asks for the machine's model number so that parts can be sent to the company.

Spurlock, who often answers the phone at the business, said she then asks the caller what company he is representing and he immediately hangs up.

Starfire had a contract with a local company to service the copier and knows the calls are not legitimate, she said.

Spurlock said she feared that business people who provide model numbers to the callers ultimately would receive and be billed for parts they didn't order.

Steve Rarrick, deputy attorney general in the consumer protection division of the Kansas attorney general's office, said it was possible that business people might receive copier machine parts, toner or just a bill and no property if they provided such information to unknown phone callers.

"It's a problem, just like a lot of other telemarketing problems that have come up," Rarrick said, adding that reports of such calls are filed periodically with the attorney general.

If the caller provides a company name, the attorney general can launch an investigation and in many cases get restitution for businesses that have lost money. In Starfire's case, it would be difficult to conduct an investigation because the caller hasn't identified a specific company.

"A lot of these companies are fly-by-night," Rarrick said. "They open one month and are closed a couple of months later."

Rarrick recommends that businesses and individuals use caution when providing information over the phone.

"When they get calls over the phone from people they don't know who start asking for personal information ... they should question right away the legitimacy of the company and start asking some questions on their own," Rarrick said.

He said people never should give out information such as their Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, machine model numbers or machine identification numbers to callers they don't know.

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