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BBB warning: By hook or by crook, scammers strike cell phone, credit card accounts with unauthorized charges

by jmaloni

Submitted

Fri, Jan 31st 2014 06:45 pm

Better Business Bureau is warning consumers of new scammer tricks that could cost you money. Cell phone users and credit card holders beware of unauthorized charges appearing on monthly wireless or credit card statements.

Don't Call Back Scam. Consumers in upstate New York and several other states report getting calls on their mobile phones during which the caller hangs up as a hook to get you to call back. If cell phone owners do call back, they're connected to a paid international adult entertainment service or chat line located outside the country.

Victims are subsequently billed not only for the incoming international call if they answer, but also the unwanted "premium service," which typically appears as a $19.95 charge. The practice of third parties placing unauthorized charges on wireless accounts is called "cramming." In some cases, crammers may only put a small charge of several dollars, so as not to arouse suspicion.

The area codes that appear on the caller ID often originate from the Dominican Republic (809), Jamaica (876), British Virgin Islands (284) and Grenada (473).

Cramming happens when a company uses your mobile or landline phone bill like a credit card, and adds a charge for services like trivia, ringtones, daily horoscopes or love tips to your bill that you didn't use or agree to. The Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission have reviewed thousands of complaints about the practice, and expect the problem to grow. 

BBB Advice so you don't get Hooked by Cramming:

Don't Call Back. If you miss the call, do not call back. Since these are caller-paid toll services - and the thieves are based overseas - if you do call back, you could be on the line for all charges.

Contact your Carrier. If you find unauthorized changes on your bill, explain your concerns about the cramming charges to your cell phone carrier. Ask them to explain the procedures for removing incorrect charges from your bill. The sooner the better, since some carriers have a 60-day period for refund requests.

Check all Charges. Check your wireless bills carefully. It's easy to ignore a billing statement after you've set up automated online payments. But taking time to read your statement online or the bill in the mail will help you detect fraudulent charges, and save you money.

This is a Test Scam. In another new con, crooks are using stolen credit card numbers and adding unexplained charges of $9.84. These scammers are banking on the fact upstate New York consumers won't check their credit card statements all that carefully.

Consumers who spot the strange charge of $9.84 on their credit card statement find the source listed is an unfamiliar website. When consumers check out the Web address, it's not a business website. It's a generic landing page that claims to offer "Customer Support." Victims report calling the "customer support" site and receiving verbal confirmation the charge would be canceled. BBB advises not to take the scammers at their word.

Scammers charging stolen credit card numbers for a small amount of money often do so as a test since they may come back for more if the $9.84 charge isn't noticed. 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. 

BBB advice to reduce Your Risk of Credit Card Fraud:

Check Statements Often. Review your bank, credit card and other financial statements weekly and carefully. The sooner you identify unauthorized charges, the better your chances to have it removed.

•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. Don't leave your cards, statements and receipts laying around your home, car or office. In many fraud cases, family or friends are linked to unauthorized charges.

Report lost cards and incorrect charges promptly. In the U.S. 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're not responsible for any unauthorized charges. In addition, many cardholders are protected by zero liability policies set in place by credit card companies.

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're dealing with represents a reputable company.

For more BBB information you can trust, visit bbb.org and "Like" it on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BetterBusinessBureauofUpstateNY.

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