In September, TV station WHEC reported on a local scam that had been affecting DirecTV customers.
“Here’s how the scam works,” Deanna Dewberry reported. “The caller claims DirecTV is sponsoring a promotion with eBay. Participants can get DirecTV at half price for 20 months. But you have to pay for a total of four months upfront, and the payment must be made with eBay gift cards.”
One target of the scam noticed that she had been warned by WHEC’s consumer alerts to be skeptical of such offers if they involve gift cards.
“It bears repeating,” Dewberry said. “If anyone wants you to make a payment with a gift card, it’s a scam. Other red flags include requesting payment with peer-to-peer payment options like Zelle, Venmo or Cash App. These should only be used to give money to people you know because there are no protections if you're scammed.”
This week, the news station aired a follow-up report that revealed further details on how the scammers are getting hold of DirecTV account information.
“If someone offers a great deal but demands payment in advance with a gift card, it’s a scam,” Thomas Tyrer, a DirecTV spokesperson, told the station. “It’s also important to note that we will never ask for payment for any services using a prepaid gift card. We did not find evidence of a breach. We encourage customers to contact our fraud department if they suspect they are the victim of a scam.”
DirecTV has not found evidence of a breach, according to the company.
The station also cited the work of Elliott Advocacy, which has also been looking into the scam.
“We’ve received many pleas for help from distraught victims of this particular eBay gift card scam during the past month,” executive director Michelle Couch-Friedman said on the group’s website. “They’ve lost hundreds and even thousands of dollars to this scheme. These consumers all want the same thing: to retrieve their stolen money from the anonymous predators who tricked them.”
Some versions of the scam say that AT&T is seeking to get the word out about the scam, but AT&T, as of earlier this year, is no longer the primary owner of DirecTV, after spinning off the satellite service earlier this year.
“It’s always a scam if someone asks you to use eBay gift cards to pay your TV bill,” eBay told one customer who fell for the scam, which in that case involved purchasing the gift cards and reading the numbers out loud on the phone.
“As soon as the thief had acquired the numbers, he had redeemed the cards, as thieves typically do,” according to Elliott Advocacy.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for the National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.