Our station has investigated a a sophisticated computer scam already affecting folks in eastern Idaho.
On Sunday, our station received a tip about a fraudulent website that looks almost identical to the Verizon Wireless website. It promises a discount on Verizon services if a user inputs sensitive personal information.
"Obviously they cloned the web site, but they did it down to a real deep level," said Idaho Falls computer consultant Monte McCall, who assisted our station in the investigation.
The site can be found at Vzforme.com. At first, it looks almost exactly the same as the official VerizonWireless.com.
"All the menus work, support works, ads for the iPhone 5," said McCall, as he navigated the site.
A form at the left hand side of the main page is really the only thing that looks out-of-place. It asks for a cell number, a Verizon account password and the last 4 digits of a social security number.
Our first step was to call Verizon Wireless and confirm the site is not official. A customer service representative told our station VZforme.com is absolutely not a Verizon site.
After our station verified the site as fraudulent, we contacted McCall. After some research, our station discovered the domain name VZforme.com is registered to a man with a phone number and address in Pocatello.
Our station called the cell phone number associated with the domain name and spoke to the man. We are not using his name because he seemed just as confused as we were about the website.
"He may have gone to a phony Verizon Wireless site himself, just like the one that we discovered is, and put in his information," said McCall.
McCall said the Pocatello man who's now listed as the owner of VZforme.com is probably a victim himself.
"Those people used his information to go ahead and register another website using his information," said McCall.
The domain name was registered in the Pocatello man's name on Saturday, just one day before our station's investigation. The Verizon Wireless representative we spoke to said the company is now taking steps to shut down the site thanks to our investigation. The fraudulent site is so new it's not really clear what scammers do with user information.
"There's something they can do that's profitable to them," said McCall.
McCall said protecting yourself from information phishing scams like this one only takes a phone call to verify a site's validity.
"Say, 'Is this your website?" said McCall. "They'll know what their web sites are."
The information requested in the form on the fraudulent site is the type of information Verizon usually asks for from customers to verify their account details.
McCall said it is possible scammers are trying to access cell phone accounts through this scam.