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BBB Scam Alert: Cell Phone & Credit Card Scams to Watch Out For

Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont (BBB) is warning cell phone users about a new scam that can result in unauthorized charges appearing on their monthly statement.

Consumers in several states report receiving calls on their mobile phones in which an unknown caller hangs up after one ring. When the cell owner returns the call, they are billed $19.95 for the international call fee. They may hear music or advertising while they are unknowingly connected to a caller-paid toll service or chat line located outside the country.

The Caribbean area codes that appear on the caller ID have been reported to be from the Dominican Republic (809), Jamaica (876), British Virgin Islands (284), Grenada (473),  Antigua (268), Dominica (767) and more.

The practice of third parties placing unauthorized charges on wireless accounts is called “cramming.” If you believe you have been a victim of this scam, be sure to alert your cell phone carrier immediately and keep an eye on your cell phone bill. The earlier you document the fraud, the better your chances of having some or all of the charges removed.

The second scam to be aware of is the unknown credit card charge. With this new con, scammers are banking on the fact that many consumers don’t check their credit card statements all that carefully. Don’t fall for it. Review your recent statements for unexplained charges of $9.84 and contest them with your bank or credit card issuer (call the number on the back of your card).

If you spot a strange charge of $9.84 on your credit card statement,  the source listed on your bill will be an unfamiliar website. It’s not a business website, but a generic landing page that claims to offer “Customer Support.” The text promises to “refund 100% of your last payment” and provides a phone number and email address.

Victims report calling the “customer support” site and receiving verbal confirmation that the charge would be canceled. However, don’t take the scammers at their word. Contact your bank to report the charges and request a new credit card. Your credit card information has been compromised, and it’s likely scammers will be back for more.

BBB advises the following tips to avoid these scams:

· Don’t Answer Unknown Calls. If you don’t recognize an out-of-state telephone number on your caller ID, ignore it.

· Add Restrictions to Your Account. Contact your service provider to see if you can restrict third-party billing on your account. Inform other users on your cellphone plan about this scam, and to ignore phone numbers they do not recognize.

· Understand Your Bills. Be sure to keep track of what services you pay for, that way you will be able to determine if any charges are unauthorized. By keeping a close eye on monthly statements, you will be less likely to become victim of these scams. Monitoring your bill is the best way to determine whether or not you’ve been affected. The sooner you spot any unexpected charges, the sooner you can stop them.

· Report Incorrect Charges Promptly. Many cardholders are protected by zero liability policies set in place by credit card companies. Request a new card if you notice unauthorized charges. Fraudulent charges mean your card information has been compromised. Be on the safe side and request a new card. Always be cautious about disclosing your account number on the telephone or online unless you know the person you’re dealing with represents a reputable company.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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