Tips and suggestions from our readers on reducing phone number scams
We've had a great response to our Scambusters #24 issue naming the top five scams for 1998 -- cramming and slamming being the top two. Some of our readers have generously shared additional experiences and tips with us below.
Phone Number Scams - Reader Comments:
One evening I got a call from Psychic Network. The "psychic" offered a FREE reading. She asked my name, birth date etc. which I gave information from the newspaper I was reading. If she was a true psychic, she would have known it was false. She glorified my future and wanted me to call their 900 number which I declined. Two months later I received a charge on my phone bill purporting that I called their 900 number on that date and was charging me $234.00 for 55 minutes.
I called their 800 complaint number and was efficiently given the run around. I found out their fax number to fax them my phone bill. Incidentally, the person asked me if I was so and so, which was the name I used from the paper and also asked about the fictitious birth date. That gave me the clue to know that back charged the 800 number to a 900 number.
I got on the Net and found that Psychic Network is owned by New Lauderdale Corp. which is owned by Quintel Corp. and they were all located in Blue Hills Plaza Suite 200 in New Jersey. I called the Plaza for these peoples' names and got the Plaza's name and address and the manager's name and address. He said the the Plaza was owned by John Morton of John Morton Inc. I called John and he refused to give me their names.
So I sent a fax to Psychic Network. In the fax I stated I was suing everyone. The Psychic, New Lauderdale, Quintel, The Plaza and manager, John Morton and his company for $50,000.00 for fraud.
I received a fax letter from a New York Law Office stating that if I did not sue everyone, they would pay me the $200 plus another $140.00 for my trouble. I took their money.
I had a company called OAN Services charge my phone bill several times for miscellaneous charges. These were for another company called ACCUTEL which is for another company called Cable & Wireless. Each time I filled out a small claims action form for $3,000.00 for cramming and or slamming and faxed it to my local phone service, OAN Service, ACCUTEL, and Cable & Wireless. The phone company always sends a letter that if I do not file suit in small claims court, they will take the charges off my phone bill and charge them back to OAN Services. So far I have never had to spend the $30.00 to actually file the suit. They know that an attorney will cost more for one hour than what it would take to defend themselves in court. Plus they probably would lose and owe me $3,000.00
Jerry Brandt Owner of Pro-Tel Communications, a wholesale long distance reseller.
You like strange slamming stories??
I listed my phone in my Siamese cat's name about twelve years ago when changing my number because of harassment calls.
I have credit card offers of $100,000.00 lines of credit and such from that listing. The best of all is a slamming story.
While paying my bills one night I noticed a statement on my phone bill, "billed by XXXXXX, for BCI Corp." I called the XXXX company and after hours of trying to talk to a human being I was told they bill for my LD service. I asked when AT&T started jobbing out their billing and was told my LD service was BCI Corp.
I asked who authorized this change and was told a Mr. Ming did it for me. I asked if he called in to do this and they said no he filled out a flyer and wrote a letter stating he was the responsible person for this phone service and that he was authorizing the change.
I asked if I might have a copy of the letter and sure enough a copy of the letter was mailed to me.
Right at the top was printed my cat's name and at the bottom was the signature. I called BCI and told them I did not appreciate their slamming me. I was informed that they had a letter authorizing the change. I asked who wrote the letter. Again I was told my cat's name as the authorizing person.
I finally told the person,"who was very rude at all times" that I was going to let the proverbial cat out of the bag and told him I didn't appreciate being lied to as the letter they had forged was in my cat's name.
He immediately jumped on my case and said, "oh, so you admit to writing a letter in someone else's name." BLAH BLAH.
Now that is a real lowlife!!
Just thought you would like this story.
If you get any feedback from these jerks about this I have a recording of the conversation. Yes I told the jerk I was recording and it seemed not to matter to him.
I don't know if this is fraud, but here is my experience with OAN. My son called collect from Los Angeles. Not questioning the operator as to which carrier she represented, I accepted. When my phone bill arrived I found that I was charged $6/minute or $18 for a 3 minute phone call!!! Now when a collect call comes in I ask who is the carrier before I accept the call.
Be aware of psychic network 800# calls. I always thought these type networks were scams and therefore would not call these numbers. Unfortunately, I decided to make just one call. An automated attendant will ask for your name and then repeat it back to you, then ask you to say yes if it is correct. Since the call is automated they will also ask for your phone number and ask you to say "yes" if it is correct. After holding on for another 5 minutes I hung up. A month later I received a bill for voice mail from a company I had not ever heard added to my regular phone bill. When I called they indicated I had requested the voice and played the recording of me stating my name and indicating, "yes". I called my phone company and explained the situation, they investigated and later credited my bill. So callers out there if you run into a similar situation, JUST HANG UP OR JUST SAY "NO".
Just wanted to mention a company called OAN who also slammed us. We use "The Phone Company" That's the Telco's name for L.D calls. It only cost 9 cents per min. anytime and, even our calling cards carry the same rate. OAN has slammed us many times with fees running at just under $1.00 per min. Our local service provider has acknowledged this firm as being a problem and even reported that they continue to get beyond having blocks placed on your phone. The only good thing that came from this was 1. We only paid our 9 cents rate on one time <we got all the calls for free the next time> and, we "Meet" some really nice folks from our local line provider! Trick here is folks, no matter what, these folks cannot charge you more, in the end, than your normal plan would charge you. Good luck y'all.
We use MCI for our long distance carrier. Everytime we receive a call from another long distance carrier, I make them repeat what they've said - then I tell them I'm not interested in any deal whatsoever. And then I hang up. But thanks to you, now I know to send a letter to my carrier to prevent being slammed. Thank you!!!
In response to your issue #24, I would like to relate a phone slam that I got. Luckily, I was aware of the slam possibility, and had the situation taken care of within 5 minutes.
I am a Bell Atlantic local service, and AT&T Long distance subscriber. I received a call from someone identifying herself as from Bell Atlantic. The first question was whether I knew about a $5 charge to subscribe to a different long distance carrier. The caller was unclear as to whether this was a charge for not having Bell Atlantic as BOTH a LD and local carrier, or a charge for switching away from AT&T. When I replied that I didn't know what she was talking about, I was asked if I would like to avoid the $5 charge. Inadvertently, I said yes. After several confusing minutes, most of which I couldn't understand (stuff about charges, saving money, no carrier mentioned, vague about AT&T, Bell Atlantic, etc.), I said that I wanted my long distance service to remain wiith AT&T. Period. I then hung up the phone.
Fearing a slam, I called Bell Atlantic's business office. They insisted that no Bell Atlantic representative was in any way authorized to change my LD service, nor did they engage in any such practice. They confirmed, however, that my long distance carrier was changed the instant that I said "yes" to the vague question about saving money. I immediately switched back to AT&T, and activated the service that you listed in your newsletter - not allowing any future electronic changes to my LD carrier. Now, I must either in person, or by letter, change the service.
I also contacted AT&T, who told me that I was so fast that they had not yet received the cancellation notice from either Bell Atlantic or the slammer. Needless to say, my service was not interrupted.
So, there's my slam story. Thankfully it had a good ending. Keep up the good work.
Olympic Communications, a long distance provider, just slammed me for $77.25 for switching my service without my permission. My wife expressed the same bewilderment as I had when consulted. The funny thing was we have two phone lines at home, one for regular use; the other one is strictly used for dialing-in to work locally, and is never used for conversation or long distance purposes. This Olympic Commm switched my work-line not knowing it is not used for calling!
The monthly phone bill for that line has always been $23.10, last month it jumped to $100.35. I followed all the steps described in Scambusters and got my service switched back. The fuzzy answer I got from Olympic Communications was that someone had signed and returned a "Rebate Check" as a form of authorization for switching! My wife and I had NEVER seen or signed any rebate check in the last twelve months, and neither one of us even know the telephone number to our second line since we do not use it. I jusy want to alert everyone that this kind of slammming can happen and do happen. We can stop them by reporting them to Federal Communication Commission at 1919 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20554, or call National Consumer League's National Fraud Information Center at 800-876-7060.
Check your phone bills!
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