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Cell phone scam rings up charges

February 19, 2014
Lehigh Acres Citizen

The Better Business Bureau warns cellphone users about a new scam that can result in unauthorized charges appearing on their monthly wireless statement.

Consumers in several states reported receiving calls on their mobile phones in which an unknown caller hangs up after one ring. When the cell owner returns the call, they are billed $19.95 for the international call fee.

They may hear music, then advertising while they are unknowingly connected to a caller-paid toll service or chat line located outside the country.

The Caribbean area codes that appear on the caller ID often have been reported to be from the Dominican Republic (809), Jamaica (876), British Virgin Islands (284), Grenada (473) and Dominica (767).

The practice of third parties placing unauthorized charges on accounts is called "cramming."

If you have fallen for the scam, be sure to alert your cell phone carrier immediately and keep an eye on you cell phone bill. The earlier you document the fraud, the better your chances of having some or all of the charges removed.

To protect yourself from unauthorized charges, BBB offers the following tips:

- 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.

- 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 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 plan know about this scam, and to ignore phone numbers they do not recognize.

Bottom line: If it's unknown, leave it alone.



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