The Better Business Bureau is warning cell phone users about two new scams.
The first can add unauthorized charges to consumers' monthly wireless bills.
The scam has been dubbed the “one ring” scam because victims’ phones often ring only once before the call is disconnected. If a victim tries to return the call, they are charged a $19.95 international call fee plus $9 a minute for the duration of the call.
Victims have told BBB that the calls appear to come from Caribbean nations including Grenada, Antigua, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica or the British Virgin Islands.
Area codes for the calls include 268, 274, 473, 809 and 876. However, some calls may be domestic.
BBB advises consumers to take note of the phone number the calls come from and notify their cell phone carriers immediately if they believe they have been victims of the scam. By documenting the fraud, consumers may have a better chance of getting the charges removed.
The practice of third parties placing unauthorized charges on wireless accounts is called “cramming.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have reviewed thousands of cramming complaints, and they expect more. For more on cramming from the FTC visit: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0183-mystery-phone-charges
BBB recommends that if you receive a call displaying an unfamiliar out-of-state telephone number on your caller ID, ignore the call and do not call back. Check your wireless bills carefully and inform your carrier if you spot any unauthorized charges.
BBB tips for avoiding cell phone fraud include:
- When in doubt, don’t pick up or call back. If you don’t recognize an out-of-state telephone number on your caller ID, ignore it. Once the caller hangs up, you can always put the number into a web search engine to see if it is actually someone you need to call back.
- Understand your mobile bill. Be sure to keep track of what services you pay for, that way you will be able to determine if any charges are unauthorized.
- Keep a close eye on monthly statements. Anyone can become a victim of bill cramming. Monitoring your bill is the best way to determine whether or not you’ve been affected. The sooner you spot any unexpected charges, the sooner you can stop them.
- Add restrictions to your account. Contact your service provider to see if you can restrict third-party billing on your account.
- Inform other users on your mobile phone plan. It’s important to let other friends and family members on your cell phone plan know about this scam, and to ignore phone numbers they do not recognize.
The second scam involves credit cards.
In the wake of all the various data breaches happening lately, Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to watch their statements extra carefully. Scammers are using stolen information to do small charges on credit cards, and are counting on the fact that many consumers don’t check their credit card statements all that carefully. One popular number to charge right now is $9.84. Therefore, be sure to review your recent statements for unexplained charges of any amount, and contest them with your bank or credit card issuer by calling the number found on the back of your card or billing statement.
How the Scam Works
You spot a recent strange charge of $9.84 on your credit card statement. The source listed on your bill is an unfamiliar website. You check out the web address, and it’s not the business website. It’s a generic landing page that claims to offer “Customer Support.” The text promises to “refund 100% of your last payment” and provides a phone number and email address.
It turns out though that scammers are charging stolen credit card numbers for a small amount of money. This way scammers are “testing the water” and making sure the card works before they try to charge even bigger amounts or even max out your credit altogether. Recent victims were charged $9.84, but scammers may change that amount as word gets out. The expectation is that many cardholders won’t notice the relatively small charge, and the credit card companies won’t go after such a minor sum.
Victims report calling the “customer support” site, and received verbal confirmation that the charge would be canceled. However, do not take the scammers at their word. Contact your bank to report the charges and request a new credit card. Your card information has been compromised, and it is likely scammers will be back for more.
Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to reduce your risk of credit card fraud:
- Report lost cards and incorrect charges promptly. In the United States and Canada if your credit card is lost, stolen, or used without your permission, you may be responsible for up to $50. If you report the loss before the card is used, you are not responsible for any unauthorized charges. In addition, many cardholders are protected by zero liability policies set in place by credit card companies.
- Request a new card if you notice unauthorized charges. Fraudulent charges mean your card information has been compromised. Be on the safe side and request a new card.
- Never lend your card. And do not leave your cards, statements and receipts lying around your home, car or office.
- Never sign a blank charge slip. Draw lines through blank spaces on charge slips above the total so the amount can’t be changed.
- Use caution when ordering online or over the phone. Always be cautious about disclosing your account number on the telephone or online unless you know the person you are dealing with represents a reputable company.
Visit bbb.org for more tips on avoiding scams. And for the latest happenings, tips, and scam alerts from your local BBB, visit BBB’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/BBBTNGA, and on Twitter: @BBBTNGA.