Newspaper Archive of
Hells Canyon Journal
Halfway, Oregon
September 2, 1992     Hells Canyon Journal
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September 2, 1992

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Hells Canyon Journal September 2, 1992 Page 19 CONSUMER ALERT Unfortunately, telecommunications fraud is not a new problem. Every day calling card numbers are being stolen, and people claiming to be law enforce- ment officials or telephone company representatives trick unsuspecting consumers into accepting the charges for calls or divulging their calling card numbers. These fraudulent calls may mean large telephone bills for unsuspecting consumers. While the Commission and the telecommunica- tions industry are working together to develop solu- tions to this problem, consumers also need to be involved. We urge consumers to take preventative steps now to avoid possible financial losses from fraud associated with telephone services and equipment. This Consumer Alert outlines different types of toll fraud, identifies steps consumers can take to detect it and lessen their chances of becoming victims, and informs consumers what they can do if they become victims. Calling Card Fraud Many consumers use local or long distance tele- phone company-issued calling cards. Unauthorized people may try to obtain calling card and personal identification (PIN) numbers by watching callers dial their numbers or by overhearing them read to an operator at a public pay telephene. They also may call people at their home or business requesting number verification. Cards also may be lost through theft or loss of a wallet or purse. Collect Call Fraud Sometimes unauthorized people pose as FCC, telephone company, or law enforcement officials and ask the subscriber to accept billing for calls as part of a "sham" investigation. Telephone company operators unwittingly can be used by unauthorized people to place fraudulent caUs. Unauthorized people also may attach calling devices to a telephone line and then place outgoing calls or accept collect calls that, in both cases, would be billed to the subscriber of the line. How Can Consumers Prevent Unathorized Use Of Their Calling CardNumbers? 1) Whenever possible, use a telephone that reads your calling card number from the magnetic strip on the back of the card. If this type of telephone is unavailable, prevent others from watching you dial your number or overhearing you give your number to an operator. 2) Immediately report a lost or stolen calling card to the local or long distance telephone company that issued it. The company will cancel your card and issue a new one. 3) Avoid using your telephone calling card as identifi- cation for consumer purchases or cashing checks. 4) Do not provide you card number to unknown per- sons. 5) Educate cardholders with whom you share cards on how to protect their card numbers. Are Consumers Responsible For Paying Unauthorized Calling Card Charges? Your liability for unauthorized use of a calling card can be as much as $50 under the Truth in Lending Act and Federal Reserve Board regulations. You should immediately contact your local or long distance com- pany to discuss the charges and to can cancel your calling card if an unauthorized person has obtained your calling card or calling card number. What Action Should Consumers Take If They Suspect That A Call Is A Toll Fraud Attempt? 1) Advise the caller that you are going to call the telephone company yourself to make sure that the problem exists. 2) Immediately hang up and call your local telephone company or the long distance telephone company identified by the caller to determine ifa problem exists with your telephone line or telephone bill. You also may wish to contact the company's security office. 3) Never accept third number billing or collect calls unless you are absolutely certain of the caller's identity and the purpose of the call. 4) If you do not normally accept third number billing or collect calls, you may wish to discuss with your local telephone company a blocking service for your line to prevent such calls from being billed to you number 5) Contact local or federal law enforcement officials. What If Consumers Have Accepted The Charges For Some Fraudulent Calls? You should contact your local telephone com- pany and the long distance company identified on your bill as the carrier of the fraudulent calls. You may also contact local or federal law enforcement officials. You should make these contacts as soon as you realize that something suspicious has happened. What Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Can Consumers Contact If They Become Victims of Toll Fraud? Consumers can contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FB I ) by writing to the FBI, 7799 Leesburg Pike, South Tower, Suite 200, Falls Church, VA 22043. The FBI and the Electronic Crimes Division of the United States Secret Service jointly investigate tele- communications fraud. Does The FCC Handle Complaints Involving Telephone Billings For Fraudulent Calls? Yes, the FCC does have authority to handle com- plaints that involve billing disputes that arise from acts of interstate or international toll fraud. You should first call you local telephone company if the billing page was included with your local telephone bill or if the long distance company was identified on the billing page. If you are unsuccessful in your attempts to resolve the complaint yourself, you can file a complaint with the FCC. A copy of the telephone bill or bills listing the disputed charges should be included with the complaint. There is no special form to fill out. Youcan simply write a letter in your own words to: Information Complaints and Public Inquires Branch Enforcement Division, Common Carrier Bureau Federal Conununications Commission 2025 M SWeet, N.W. - Suite 6206 Washington, D.C. 20554 This message brought to you as a public service by (503) 742-2201