Fraudulent Cell Phone Charges - by the phone company
Fraudulent cell phone charges can be initiated by the cell phone service company you're using, so be aware and avoid this type of scam. Remember, the cell phone company is out to make money - and there is nothing wrong with that - but sometimes the methods employed can snare the unaware.
This piece of advice comes from a friend of mine who was using a popular cell phone company and one of their prepaid cell phone plans. I won't tell you the name of the company, but I'm certain they've heard from more than a few of their customers, and perhaps they can hear me now too.
The idea of prepaid cell phones is to make the service more affordable (you only pay for the air time you use), eliminate monthly bills, and provide the less responsible among us with a means of having portable communications without risking running up a huge cell phone bill (the phone shuts down when you near the end of your prepaid minutes). Despite the benefits offered, there is a scam out there that you need to be aware of.
There is "fine print" you can read after you get your phone that explains in a very general way that roaming charges are extra. Some cell phone companies are funneling prepaid users to "roaming" when the regular service is busy, and this jacks the per minute rate up way beyond what users expect. Here is a story to illustrate the scam.
My friend Larry has a prepaid service that charges him $1 for each day that he uses his cell phone, and 10 cents for each minute, provided that he uses it within the company service area. There is a roaming charge (identified in the user manual) associated with calls outside the normal service area.
So, Larry goes about using his cell phone without worry of fraudulent cell phone charges, until one day he calls me to chat for a while and finds out after the call that nearly his entire prepaid balance has been consumed in a rather short conversation.
Here's what happened, so you can guard against it happening to you.
When Larry tried to phone me, the network was busy. A message on his phone instructed him to re-enter the phone number he was trying to reach. His re-entering the phone number was required so the phone company could switch him over to "roaming" so the phone call could go through. As a result, his account was charged the exorbitant roaming rate, without him being aware of it.
Larry's advice, that I'm passing on here, is to hang up and try your call again and again until you get onto the regular service without roaming. It may take several tries, but you'll likely get through in a few minutes without incurring roaming charges.
Now some might not see this as fraudulent cell phone charges, but I do. The idea that you're paying a higher rate to "roam" within your regular service area is unanticipated at the least and deceptive at its worst. The higher charge should be made clear to the user at the time there is a request to re-enter the number. If it's not made clear, then this constitutes fraudulent cell phone charges.
The cell phone company will defend it's position by saying that their job is to provide service, and that sometimes means switching customers to roaming in order to meet their demand. Okay, it's a nice cover story for fraudulent cell phone charges, but I'm not buying it.
Armed with this information, you might care to contact your cell phone service provider and learn more about how and when roaming charges are applied in your regular service area. This could help you avoid a type of scam intended to fleece those of us who don't want regular, monthly cell phone service.
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