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Telephone redirect ruse hits California

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US fraudsters were able to pose as a pizza outlet after a credulous AT&T service rep redirected calls from cooks to crooks.

Con-men claiming that the phone at pizza outlets was malfunctioning persuaded the rep to set in place a call forwarding request to a number of their choosing. AT&T failed to make any checks.

As a result, orders for pizzas were fielded by fraudsters, who predictably insisted advanced payments needed to be made by credit card. Payment details were subsequently used to make fraudulent internet purchases under the name of unsuspecting pizza customers.

The beauty of this simple ruse is the potential marks would have no reason to be suspicious. After all, they initiated the orders.

News of the ruse came after an internal memo fell into the hands of reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle. John Britton, an AT&T spokesman, confirmed the authenticity of the memo.

Two incidents of the scam have been reported in southern California, but it's unclear if the ruse has been replicated elsewhere. The incidents that AT&T knows about only emerged after complaints from pizza parlours that their phones had gone dead.

"If someone doesn't call us, we wouldn't know about it," Britton told the San Francisco Chronicle. "After learning of this, we immediately took action to warn employees to be extra cautious when dealing with any requests for call forwarding."

Nobody has been arrested over the scam and it's unclear how much money has been defrauded.

Meanwhile, AT&T is not saying what new security measures it has instituted to frustrate the con, beyond saying it has warned other operators and that subsequent attempts to pull off the con have failed. "We had some guidelines in place that we believe were effective," Britton said. "Now we have extra precautions." ®

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