January 7, 1997 5:15 PM PST

Scam targets Prodigy users

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A Prodigy subscriber apparently has rigged up an elaborate system--including a toll-free number--to talk other members out of their credit card numbers and other private information, CNET learned today.

With rising frequency, scam artists are trying to get passwords and credit card numbers from members of online services, raising concerns among Netizens and Internet service providers. The problem is so pervasive that America Online (AOL), the nation's largest online service, constantly posts messages telling members that they never will be asked for their passwords.

But this may be the first time that someone has set up a toll-free number to get them.

Prodigy members are being sent instant messages by an unknown user while they are logged on to the network, telling them to dial an 800 number. When they call, they are greeted with a professional-sounding male voice telling them they have reached Prodigy's billing department.

"If there is a mistake in your last billing statement please leave that information at the tone," callers are told. "If were told to call us by one of our online representatives, please leave your name, billing address, valid credit card number, expiration date, phone number, and birthday. Your problem will be handled by the next billing day."

Prodigy says it never asks for credit card information over the phone, said a billing representative, who declined to give her name. If Prodigy has a problem with a credit card, she said, it will send an online message to the customer asking him to go online to fix the information.

"We never go through instant messages and ask for credit card information and passwords," she said.

The representative said members have called to complain about the line but, so far, have not identified the screen name of the person sending the instant message. Prodigy, she added, cannot legally go into instant messages looking for the person because those are considered private.

Meanwhile, anyone with questions or information can call the real billing department at (800) 213-0992.

 

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