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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 10, 2009
CONSUMER ALERT: Phone scam targeting Hispanic businesses

Callers claim to be from “the insurance agency”

[Español]

SEATTLE – The Washington Attorney General’s Office is alerting residents about a phone scam in which Spanish-speaking callers claim to be representatives of an insurance company.

Hispanic business owners from Seattle to Yakima and Spokane have reported receiving phone calls from Spanish-speaking callers who claim to be from “the insurance company.” In some cases, the callers also provide the names of actual insurance companies and/or agents.

The callers ask for bank account information they claim is needed to process insurance payments. The callers have left messages if owners aren’t available, along with phone numbers that start with 800, 877 and 752 area codes.

At least two individuals provided bank information to the cons, according to Unico Insurance Agency in Woodinville, which reported the fraud to the Attorney General’s Office. Company owner Carlos Garces said he has received more than 200 calls from customers, primarily restaurant owners, in recent months inquiring about phone calls. In some cases, the cons have mentioned his name. Garces said he is doing what he can to protect his customers and telling them to contact their bank if they provided any information.

The owner of a Spokane grocery store and deli also contacted the Attorney General’s Office after receiving more than 10 calls from individuals who claimed to be associated with various insurance companies. He said the callers, both men and women appeared to be friendly and tried to build up his trust. They claimed they needed to send an investigator to the business. The owner recognized the scam and did not provide any personal information.

As a reminder, never provide your bank account, Social Security number or other personal information to someone who asks for it by phone, e-mail or text message.

If you believe a call might be legitimate, ask for the caller’s name and contact details then end the conversation. Call the business directly using the number on your insurance card, statement or in the phone book.

If you believe you may have provided information in response to a fraudulent phone call, report the information immediately to your bank and place a fraud alert on your credit report.

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Media Contacts: Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager – Seattle, (206) 464-6432, kalexander@atg.wa.gov

Elena Perez, Latino Outreach Specialist, (509) 734-7143 (bilingual)

 

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