Beware of Telephone Switching Scams


Telephone scams are illegal, deceptive, and highly costly. Getting “slammed” (having your long-distance telephone carrier switched without our permission) is becoming increasingly common. Three out of every five people surveyed by the National Consumers League report that they or someone they know has been a victim of slamming. Slamming ranks as the fifth most reported telemarketing incident by the National Consumers League.

Beware of telephone scams

The growing number of slamming complaints suggests that this illegal practice costs customers more than $100 million yearly. Current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations state that it is illegal for a company to switch your long-distance service without a signed (or verbal and verified by a third party) authorization form from the consumer. Consumers must first understand how it happens to avoid getting slammed and joining the above statistics.

How Telephone Scams Work

To help you understand how this type of scam works, here are a few example scenarios:

  • Scenario #1: A telemarketer may try switching you to a different long-distance carrier. Even though you say “no,” there is a possibility that the person will switch you anyway.
  • Scenario #2: A check may arrive in the mail. You may sign up for a new long-distance carrier by signing and cashing the check. Always read the fine print before signing and cashing any check you receive in the mail.
  • Scenario #3: Entering a contest may allow you to win a car, trip, or even a new long-distance carrier’s surprise (in fine print).

Various slamming scenarios may exist, including small companies that buy telephone service from larger carriers, such as AT&T, at wholesale rates and then resell this service at retail. These carriers may confuse customers by associating the large carrier’s name with their service and rates, like comparing apples to oranges.

How to avoid telephone scams

You are already on the right track to side-stepping a “slam” by educating yourself. Simply being aware that slamming can occur is essential. Always read the fine print to find exactly what you are signing up for. In addition, be sure to: Know who your current long-distance carrier is. Call your local telephone company to find out.

Keep an eye on your telephone bills to see if your carrier changes or if the charges for long-distance calls increase significantly. The FCC requires carrier charges to be “clearly and conspicuously” indicated on all telephone bills.

Always read the fine print. As mentioned above, you may sign up for a new long-distance service without knowing it by cashing a check or signing for a new “prize” in a contest. Always be sure to read the fine print.

Call your local telephone company and request a “carrier freeze.” Currently, your local company will switch you whenever a telephone carrier makes a request. Calling your local telephone company is the only way to block a switch without your explicit consent.

If you have been slammed, call the Phone Company

If you’re the victim of a telephone scam, call your local telephone company immediately and notify them that you did not authorize the switching of your long-distance service, and ask them to switch you back to your original carrier. You do not have to pay any fees for switching to your original telephone company.

Also, call your long-distance company and make them aware of the slamming. Ask the company to ensure your account is in order and that they don’t penalize you with charges resulting from the slamming.

The FCC issued new slamming rules effective November 28, 2000. Once the FCC has verified a slamming complaint, consumers are guaranteed compensation.

Consumers who have been slammed and have not paid the unauthorized carrier will not be responsible for paying for service up to 30 days after the slam.

Consumers who have been slammed and have paid the unauthorized carrier will receive a 50 percent reimbursement of all paid charges. The rules require the unauthorized carrier to pay 150 percent of all charges to your authorized carrier, which is responsible for reimbursing you 50 percent of those charges.

Report an Unauthorized Carrier

To report an unauthorized carrier, or if you’ve been slammed, call the Attorney General at 1-800-282-0515 or the FCC: at 1-888-225-5322 (toll-free).

Learn more about other Frauds, Scams, and Schemes.


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