CHARLESTON — Last week, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey warned citizens to be cautious of a new scam that places unauthorized fees on their wireless accounts if they return calls they were unable to answer.
The scam, which the Better Business Bureau and others have dubbed the “one-ring” scam, is a form of cramming, or the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading or deceptive charges on your phone bill. In the scam, a person, often located overseas, calls a number and then hangs up after the first ring. If a consumer calls back, he or she is charged for making an international call as well as other hidden fees.
“This is a national scam that is hitting people in West Virginia, as well,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Calls seem to be coming from Caribbean countries, such as Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica, Grenada and other island nations using area codes such as 268, 876 or 473. But calls also may be from domestic numbers. The best advice is to be cautious about answering or returning phone calls from numbers and area codes you don’t recognize. If someone calls and doesn’t leave a message, chances are fairly good they didn’t need to reach you that much.”
According to the Federal Communications Commission, here are some ways to spot cramming on your telephone or cell phone bill:
Your bill will include charges for services that are explained on your telephone bill in general terms such as “service fee,” “service charge,” “other fees,” “voicemail,” “mail server,” “calling plan,” “psychic” and “membership;”
Your bill could include charges that are added to your telephone bill every month without a clear explanation of the services provided – such as a “monthly fee” or “minimum monthly usage fee;” and
Charges for an authorized service, but you were misled about its actual cost.
“Consumers should closely review their cell phone and landline telephone bills each month for potentially fake charges for third party services,” Morrisey said. “Crammers will often put small charges on the cell phone bill in the hope that it will go unnoticed by the consumer for a period of time.”
If you believe you have been the victim of cramming, call your phone company to dispute these charges. You can also file a complaint with the FCC’s Consumer Center by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) as well as the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office at 1-800-368-8808.