April 15, 2010

Telecom Scams are Still Happening

Telecom scams are real and can cost your company thousands of dollars. A company I worked for was victimized by not to long ago.

If you are on a VoIP system and a hacker is able to get into any of the phones on your system, it is very easy for them to set up an automatic forwarding to an international number. What makes it even worse, is if your company has a toll free number, the hackers will call in on that line, access the phone forwarded to the international number and you get hit twice.

Telecom scams and fraud continues to be a multi-billion dollar problem for the U.S. consumer and for business organizations. As the telecom industry changes, so do the methods of scam artists. The best line of defense is to be aware of the current scams and types of telecom fraud that are popular and often easily carried out by scam artists.
Below is a list of the top 5 telecom scams and fraud alerts that you should know about. Aimed at both businesses and consumers, these tactics have cost victims 10's of millions in losses in the last year alone.
#1 - "Do Not Call List" Scam
The national "do-not-call" list was put in place to protect consumers and businesses from being bombarded with telemarketing pitches. Some clever scam artists are now using the list as a tool for stealing personal identities. How does it work? Victims receive a call from someone claiming to represent the federal or state "do-not-call" list. The caller then asks for personal information (to verify identity of course) such as social security numbers or bank account information as a requirement for being enrolled in the registry.
#2 - 72# Forward Calling Scam
This scam often originates from inside a prison or correctional facility. The victim will receive a collect call with the news that they have won a sweepstakes or prize. To claim the prize they are only asked to input a series of numbers on their touch-tone phone. This activates the call forwarding feature (#72) essentially allowing the caller free access to the victim's phone line. All calls - including long distance calls and collect calls - are then billed to the unsuspecting "sweepstakes winner".
#3 - 809 or 832 Area Code Scam
This is a common telecom scam and has caught many unsuspecting consumers and businesses off guard. Phone calls, voice mail messages and numeric pagers and even emails are the means for reaching victims. Recipients of these calls, voice messages, emails and especially numeric pages are asked to call a telephone number that begins with the 809 (or 823) area code.
With the proliferation of new area codes over the last 10-15 years, (and now free long distance calling plans) most individuals do not give it a second thought when returning the call.
These area codes are indeed legitimate but originate from the Caribbean islands. The problem is that they function as "pay-per-call" numbers, similar to 900 numbers in the U.S. The 809 number can be set up to be billed at $10, $100, or $1000 or more per minute. Victims may not even realize they have been conned until they get their next phone bill. Then they are in for quite a shock!
#4 - PBX Highjack Scam
Aimed at businesses, this scam is very similar to the #72 scam detailed above. A business will receive a call from someone with a line like "hello, I've been working with Joe Smith in the telecom department and we need you to dial 9-0 to test a new feature on our phone system." This gives them access to phone lines mainly for international calling. Thousands of dollars can be racked up in a matter of days - all courtesy of the corporation being scammed.
#5 - "Cramming" and "Slamming" Scams
"Cramming" and "slamming" make up the most lucrative and widespread telecom scams in existence today. In fact, representatives from established companies such as MCI and ATT have been known to be users of these tactics.
Slamming occurs when telephone service (usually long distance service) has been switched without the consent of the customer. It is usually the result of deceptive sales practices on the part of telemarketers. Slamming can also occur as the result of a sweepstakes or prize drawing signature, or even as a check sent to the customer through the mail. Upon cashing the check the customer is then switched to the new service.
"Cramming" occurs when additional phone service (or Internet) items or features are included on the customer bill without being requested. Third parties and the carriers themselves are notorious for including these "additional" charges.
Cramming charges usually fall into one of three categories: one-time entertainment services, monthly recurring membership fees, or telecom features such as voice mail, paging, Internet charges, inside wire maintenance, etc.
Since the Local Exchange Carriers are legally required to bill for third party vendors, cramming charges can be applied by simply forwarding charges to the local telephone company on your behalf. A thorough telecom audit of your corporate bills can uncover many cramming and slamming occurrences. Since these charges routinely return back on the bills once they are removed, it is advisable to conduct complete telecom audits at least twice per year and monthly if possible.
About the author: Karen Thatcher is President and CEO of TelCon Associates, Inc., a 32 year oldtelecom audit and telecom bill management company. For free tools and publications that will help you reduce corporate telecom spending, visit http://www.telconassociates.com
Author: Karen Thatcher
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