|Did You Know ...
If you wonder if that telemarketing offer is too good to be true, it probably is. The FTC compiled seven of the most common consumer scams. Read about them and how to protect yourself.
Most consumer scams involve the use of the telephone and can include making unauthorized long-distance phone calls and illegally obtaining credit card numbers and bank account PINs. There are many different kinds of scams that involve telephone services. Here are seven to watch out for:
1. "Slamming" is when your long-distance telephone service is switched to another company without your permission. Look at your phone bill carefully. If a different long-distance company is listed, call your local phone company to find out how to get switched back with no fee and how to be re-billed at your original long-distance company's rates. Instruct your carrier to block any changes or to require written authorization or direct confirmation.
2. "Cramming" occurs when monthly charges appear on your telephone bill for optional services that you never authorized, such as voice mail, paging, a personal 800 numbers, or club membership. Like slamming, it can happen by filling out a contest entry form, failing to respond to a negative-option sales pitch, or calling a 900 number.
3. Toll fraud occurs when someone charges his or her long-distance calls to your number. If your calling card is stolen, or someone looks over your shoulder at a pay phone, your account number can be used to make calls all over the world. In another toll-fraud scam, you receive a call from someone pretending to be from a phone company or a government agency, claiming to be investigating a phone problem and asking you to accept charges for a call. No legitimate company or agency would ask you to do this. Hang up immediately.
4. Claims of savings by using "dial-around" access numbers may be phony. Those seven-digit numbers that you can dial to get around your regular long-distance phone company to save money could result in higher charges, not lower, if there are added fees or calling minimums.
5. Not all 800 numbers are toll-free. You can be charged for calling an 800 number if you have agreed to it in advance. But some consumers are tricked into being charged for 800 numbers by following instructions to dial "personal activation codes" that are really access codes linking them to "pay-per-call" numbers, or by other means.
6. You may be lured into making an international call without realizing it. Some international phone numbers look very similar to U.S. numbers, but the charges can be far more. Or you might receive a message on your pager, your computer, or your telephone answering machine that there is a family emergency or that legal action on a debt is underway, along with an unfamiliar phone number to call. If you are unsure where a number is, ask the telephone operator before you dial.
7. Beware of fraudulent computer-generated phone charges. In the latest twist to phone frauds reported to the National Fraud Information Center, consumers who downloaded a program from a Web site on the Internet to view pictures later received huge phone bills for international calls they never made. Don't download programs from Web sites unless you know and trust them.