Slamming and Cramming
"Slamming" occurs when a phone company illegally switches your phone service without your permission. If you notice a different company name on your bill or see phone charges that are higher than normal, take action:
- Contact the company that slammed you and ask to be switched back to your original company. Tell the company you are exercising your right to refuse to pay any charges.
- Report the problem to your original company and ask to be enrolled in your previous calling plan. If you're unable to resolve your complaint, contact the FCC.
"Cramming" occurs when companies add charges to your telephone bill without your permission. These charges may be for services such as voice mail, ringtones, or club memberships. You may not notice these monthly charges because they are relatively small, $5 to $30, and look like your regular phone charges.
Take These Steps to Avoid Slammers and Crammers:
- Block changes to your phone service. Ask your telephone service provider if they offer a blocking service, which usually requires the company to notify you before making any changes to your service.
- Read the fine print on contest entry forms and coupons. You could be agreeing to switch your phone service or buy optional services.
- Watch out for impostors. Companies could falsely claim to be your regular phone company and offer some type of discount plan or change in billing. They might also say they are taking a survey or pretend to be a government agency.
- Beware of "negative option notices". You can be switched or signed up for optional services unless you say "NO" to telemarketers.
- Examine your telephone bill carefully, including pages that show the details, and look for suspicious charges.
Your phone service cannot be shut off for refusal to pay for unauthorized services. For help, contact your local or state consumer protection agency, state public utilities commission, or the FCC.
Caller ID Spoofing
Scammers have adopted the practice of caller ID spoofing to obtain personal information from consumers. In this fraud, someone calls you using a false name and phone number for the Caller ID screen. During the call, the scammer describes an urgent scenario, such as the cancellation of an account. The caller may say you can avoid the cancellation if you provide your bank account or credit card number to pay the company. If you give the sensitive information, he can use it to steal your identity, or use your bank accounts.
You can prevent being a victim of caller ID spoofing. Don’t give out personal information on an incoming call. Hang up and call the customer service phone number printed on your statement, the company’s website or in the phonebook.
Report caller ID spoofers to the Federal Communications Commission online or 1-888-225-5322.
Protect Your Privacy When Using GPS Enabled Apps
GPS enabled apps on mobile phones make it easy to share your fun adventures through social media. Some apps let others know your general vicinity, while others allow you to virtually “check in” at your favorite places so that you can earn free merchandise. Beware: this same information in the wrong hands can make you vulnerable to stalking, home burglary, or worse. Take advantage of the privacy settings on these apps and only share your location with people that you know and trust.
Cell Phone Early Upgrade Plans
It seems that right after you get a new cell phone, a newer one with improved features comes out. Standard mobile service contracts allow you to upgrade your phone after two years. Several major carriers are offering a new type of contract that allows you to upgrade sooner. While the standard phone contracts require you to pay only a portion of the phone’s full cost (up to $250), these new plans may require you to pay the full cost of the phone ($600 or more). Before you sign up for these early upgrade plans, do your homework. Some questions you should ask include:
Keep in mind that if you have an early upgrade plan and pay the entire phone’s price, you may still be required to return the phone to the provider on your next upgrade. Also, if you owe money for the phone, you may not be able to switch carriers until the balance is paid.
- Is there an upgrade fee?
- Does the upgrade fee include insurance?
- How soon after you sign your contract can you get an upgrade?
- Are you required to pay a down payment? Is a down payment required for each upgrade?
- Does your old phone have to work and be in good physical condition (e.g. no cracked screen) to take advantage of the upgrade plan?
- How frequently can you upgrade (once or twice a year)?
- How many months will you have to pay for the full price of the phone?
- Is the early upgrade option available with all of the carrier’s plans or only select ones?
- What percentage of the phone’s full value are you responsible for paying before you are eligible for an upgrade? After how many months?