Consumer Alert: The sophisticated scam targeting DirecTV customers. Here’s how to recognize it.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — One of our viewers contacted us about a sophisticated scam targeting DirecTV customers. She says she didn’t fall for it because she watches our consumer alert daily on News10 NBC at 5:30 and recognized the warning signs.

Here’s how the scam works. The caller claims DirecTV is sponsoring a promotion with eBay. Participants can get DirecTV at half price for 20 months. But you have to pay for a total of four months upfront, and the payment must be made with eBay gift cards.

"I think what upset me the most was that they had my account number,” said Greece resident Margaret Whalen. "They know how much I paid each month. And they knew that my last payment was September 2.”

Then the scammer gave her a smooth, well-rehearsed spiel about the benefits of taking part in the so-called promotion.

"They wanted me to pay the first four months which would have been $440, and for the next 20 months I would get 50% off my DirecTV bill,” Whalen said.

But Whalen immediately recognized the big red flag. The caller wanted her to pay the $440 with eBay gift cards.

"Like you said,” Whalen told me, “if gift cards are involved, it’s a scam. I remember you saying that; therefore, that’s why I wanted you to know what was going on."

Whalen is a loyal News10NBC viewer and says she has heard me warn about gift card scams many times. And it bears repeating. If anyone wants you to make a payment with a gift card, it’s a scam. Other red flags include requesting payment with peer-to-peer payment options like Zelle, Venmo or Cash App. These should only be used to give money to people you know because there are no protections if you’re scammed.

But the big question is the following: How did the scammer know Margaret’s account information? Of course, I took that question straight to DirecTV. A spokesman said, "We offer customers a number of resources to help them protect their information and will work with any customer who is impacted by a scam."

But he asked me to give him more time to find out how scammers are getting victims’ account information. This scam has been circulating for years, and victims complain that the reason it’s so believable is because the scammer had their account information. I’ll keep digging to find out how they’re getting it. If this scammer calls you, don’t engage him. Hang up.