A Verizon store. (Photo: jetcityimage / iStock)

If someone calls you pretending to be from your mobile operator and asks for a verification code, don't give it to them.

It was a lesson learned in Florida last month after two different scammers tried to buy phones at Clearwater, Florida, Verizon Store.

The two scammers, Ah & # 39; jhzae Diamondric Artag Berry and Keith Ramsey, had apparently deceived two unsuspecting victims in an attempt to buy new units on victims' accounts.

Both scammers were busted in the store after Verizon notified the local police of the irregularity. The Clearwater Police Department tells the United States today that the victims were not affiliated, but the department is not sure if there is a connection between the two cases.

Ramsey tried to buy two iPhone XS Max phones valued at $ 1,200 per. Unit on March 26. Berry tried to buy a single phone that was valued at $ 1,250 or March 21, police said the US today.

Tim Downes, detective sergeant for the department's financial crime unit, says Ramsey & # 39; s scheme started getting the victim's email address and sending his target a false message constituting Verizon, who said there was fraud on the account a number to contact. "It's a bad number, so basically, if you reply to that email, get the bad guy," Downes says.

If you call back, the scammer says they will send you a personal identification number or a PIN that they want you to tell them. By giving them the PIN over the phone, the scammer takes advantage of the password verification system that Verizon has introduced to confirm that you are you.

When they have that PIN, they can reset the password, make themselves a "master account user" in your account, or do whatever they want, including call forwarding or entering a store and buying units as the primary user.

They had to pay taxes and some fees in the store on a new unit, but buying could otherwise leave you the foothold most of the bill while selling the unit for a profit.

Fortunately, the Verizon store noticed how quickly the account was changed and informed the police that both suspects were arrested while in the store.

"We acknowledge that privacy and security of information are crucial to our customers. Unfortunately, bad actors are always looking for ways to engage in fraud and identity theft," says Verizon spokesman Steve Van Dinter . in a statement to the United States today.

"As scammers gather more private information from the dark web and create more authentic-looking false identification, our team at Verizon is always working to stop these criminals who affect about 7,000 customers each month." [19659000] Fighting robocalls: Verizon adds free & # 39; Call filter & # 39; function in bids to fight robocalls

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If you suspect fraud, recommend Verizon to contact them directly at (800) 922-0204.

While cell phone fraud has been going on for years, Downes says that this method of exploiting the security measures against the victim is new.

So how can you protect yourself? He recommends checking the companies you are dealing with and paying attention to how they interact with you. For example, Verizon will never ask for the identification PINs you write to confirm your identity.

When in doubt, you can and should reach the business directly instead of responding to "those" that reach you.

"People are getting smarter and more sophisticated, and it becomes harder to prevent these things from happening," Downes said in the future.

"Be careful with these emails you get and people should monitor all their accounts and their credit report just to make sure everything is the way it should be," he adds.

"It goes a long way in helping stop and prevent these scams."

Follow Eli Blumenthal on Twitter @eliblumenthal

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