Telephone scams are illegal, deceptive, and extremely costly. Getting “slammed” (having your long-distance telephone carrier switched without our permission) is becoming an increasingly common occurrence. 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 each year. 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. To avoid getting slammed and joining the above statistics, consumers must first understand how it happens.
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 call and try to switch 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. By signing and cashing the check, you may be signing up for a new long-distance carrier. Always read the fine print before signing and cashing any check you receive in the mail.
Scenario #3: Entering a contest may give you a chance to win a car or trip, or even the surprise (in fine print) of a new long-distance carrier as well.
Various other slamming scenarios may exist, including small companies that buy up telephone service from larger carriers, such as AT&T, at wholesale rates and then resell this service at a retail rate. These carriers may try to confuse customers by associating the large carrier’s name with their own service and rates, which is like trying to compare 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 important. Always read the fine print to find out exactly what it is you are signing up for. In addition, be certain 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 your 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 even 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 request is made by a telephone carrier. A call to your local telephone company is currently the only way to block a switch without your direct 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, ask them to switch you back to your original carrier. You do not have to pay any fees associated with switching back to your original telephone company.
Also, call your long-distance company and make them aware of the slamming. Ask the company to make sure 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 a slamming complaint has been verified by the FCC, consumers are guaranteed compensation.
Consumers who have been slammed and have not paid the unauthorized carrier, will not be responsible to pay for service for up to 30 days after the slam occurred.
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 in turn is responsible for reimbursing you 50 percent of those same charges.
Report an Unauthorized Carrier
To report an unauthorized carrier, or if you think you’ve been slammed, you can call the Attorney General at 1-800-282-0515 or the FCC: 1-888-225-5322 (toll-free).
Learn more about other Frauds, Scams and Schemes.