IM this article to a friend!

December 30, 2003

Scam Targets Service For Deaf

From: WOWT, NE - Dec 30, 2003

Phone relay system used to order merchandise

Scam artists are tapping into a vital service for the hearing impaired and an Omaha business has been a target.

It's hard to imagine life without a telephone and it's no exception for the hearing impaired who rely on a relay system using an operator and a computer as a go-between. Norm Weverka of Greenwood, Nebraska is hearing impaired, but he can talk on the phone using his computer and the relay system. A seven-cent surcharge on everyone's phone bill pays for the operator. As president of the Omaha Association for the Deaf, Norm is concerned that with Internet hookups, relay calls can't be traced. Norm is worried about scam artists using the system. "Because when they call we never know where they are."

When a parts manager at Jones Automotive answered a relay call from someone claiming to be deaf, he became suspicious. "Wanting quantities and willing to pay whatever price I said and saying they were a charity," said Rob Compton. The caller using the relay system attempted to order nine car radios at about $150 each. But Ron Brown at Jones Automotive wasn't about to send them without checking out the credit card number and it turned out to be issued in a foreign country. "We called credit card security on that number and she informed me this is one of the biggest scams on credit card fraud is people using these machines and trying to play on people's sympathies."

Weverka worries that a communications system so important to the hearing impaired could be jeopardized. "Deaf people might not get to use the system in the future because of the misuse." The relay system gives the deaf a voice anyone can hear and Norm is saying loud and clear that any misuse needs to be reported.

A supervisor with the Nebraska Relay System for the Deaf said this is the first she's heard about a possible scam, but she said it's hard to trace anyone using the Internet to connect with the relay system. Anyone with questions about the Nebraska Relay System for the Deaf can call 1-800-618-4781.

Gray MidAmerica TV Interactive Media, LLC Copyright © 2002-2003