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June 23, 06

NEWS / AG Lynch: Watch out for scams involving the switch to digital TV broadcasting

Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch today warned consumers that the pending switch from analog to digital broadcast television provides many opportunities for scammers to bilk people out of money and to obtain sensitive, personal information for the purpose of identity theft. The U.S. Congress has mandated that February 17, 2009, will be the last day for television stations to broadcast in analog. Lynch said that as the date approaches, consumers have to be alert for bogus web sites, emails, and telephone calls urging consumers to buy a product or pay a fee to maintain TV service.

“Within hours after Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, and the recent earthquake in China that caused massive devastation and deaths, scammers had web sites up and running, angling for contributions,” Lynch said. “It’s realistic to expect that the Internet will again be used to victimize people in regard to the DTV transition.”

Lynch said that in order to adequately inform and warn consumers, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) has put the digital television transition on the agenda of its Summer Meeting, which is being held in Providence this week. Tomorrow, Thursday, June 19th at The Westin, a panel discussion, The Digital Television Transition: What Attorneys General Need to Know, will be held from 11:45 AM to 12:30 PM. Participants include Emmitt Carlton, special counsel, office of intergovernmental affairs, Federal Communications Commission; Lori Kalani, associate corporate counsel, EchoStar; Rick Cimerman, vice president, state government affairs, National Cable and Telecommunications Association; and Sally Greenberg, executive director, National Consumers League.

According to industry experts, seniors and low-income families are especially at-risk for being victimized in DTV transition scams, Lynch said. In addition to sham web sites, he advises consumers to be alert to the following.

The Voucher Scam will claim that a consumer will be entitled to get discount or free cable TV service by purchasing an expensive, and worthless, voucher. Lynch warned that some of the voucher scams, like the scam check or scam prize notification, will even falsely claim to be tied to a “special government program.”

Follow-up Scams. There will be dozens of advertisements, emails, web sites, and “shops” in the months and years following the conversion that will claim to fix an old TV or make it digital-ready. “In addition to using technology, fly-by-night operators will set up shop in neighborhoods for a short period of time, taking as much cash as they can stuff in their pockets, and then move on to another city or town,” Lynch said.

Misinformation. Some employees of retail or repair shops might not have adequate information on the DTV transition and therefore unknowingly mislead consumers into buying something they don’t need or throwing out equipment that will work.

Lynch said that there are three basic choices for people with analog TVs. They are: · Purchase digital converter boxes to use with current TV sets. A government-issued $40 voucher is available on a first-come, first-served basis at www.DTV.gov. · Purchase a new digital TV. · Connect an analog TV to the local cable company service or another video service provider.



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