Consumer Alert: Phone scam targets wireless users

Posted at 7:03 AM, Jan 14, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-14 07:41:14-05

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) --There is a new phone scam making its rounds, targeting cell phone users.  The Better Business Bureau is putting out an alert warning of a new scam that can result in unauthorized charges to your wireless bill.

It is a relatively simple scam that can cost consumers big bucks.  At risk are those with mobile phones.  What's happening is consumers are receiving calls from unknown numbers.  The person making the call will either hang up or leave a message saying there is something wrong with a loved one, prompting a return call.  But the person calling back may not realize the number they are dialing is an international call and one that could be linked to an overseas adult entertainment line.  The consumer ends up racking up premium service rates, typically appearing as a $19.95 charge.  This practice of third parties placing unauthorized charges on wireless accounts is called "cramming," and it's becoming a growing problem.

The BBB said no one is off limits to the scammer and the con artists are hoping to reach those unaware in order to rack up hundreds to thousands in charges.

"Vulnerable people are vulnerable," Tom Gallagher with BBB said.  "When you are having tough times, that's when these guys kick.  Maybe you lost a job, maybe you lost a relative; but when you are vulnerable that's when it's just glory days for the con man."

The area codes to look out for originate from the Dominican Republic (809), Jamaica (876), British Virgin Islands (284) and Grenada (473).

Gallagher said it's vital you're checking your cell phone bills carefully and if there are unexplained charges you have to let your provider know.

"Monitor very closely your phone bill to be sure everything on there is true, and it's factual and you ought to be paying" Gallagher said.  "If you don't believe it is, squawk about it to let your phone company know 'wait a minute this is not some call that I made.  I didn't do this.'  Cut your damage right there."

In addition to checking your cell phone bill regularly and carefully, it's also recommended you:

--Avoid answering unknown calls

--Do not call back

--Look for unexplained charges, less than $20

--And, again don't be afraid to question charges with your carrier.

For more information on "cramming" click here.