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Better Business Bureau warning of scam targeting mobile phone users

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TYLER, TX - The Better Business Bureau is warning cell phone users about a twist on an old scam that can result in unauthorized charges appearing on their monthly wireless statement.

The practice of third parties placing unauthorized charges on wireless accounts is called “cramming.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have reviewed thousands of complaints about the practice, and expect the problem to grow.

It's called the "One Ring" scam, because the scammers program computers to blast out thousands of calls to random cell phone numbers, ring once, then disconnect. The objective is to make the victim curious about a missed call and return the call right away. Consumers in several states have reported receiving calls. When cell phone owners call back, they are connected to a paid international adult entertainment service or chat line located outside the country.

In most cramming cases, charges are relatively small and often go unnoticed”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “This is why it’s so important for consumers to go over their statements frequently and review them line by line.”

In the cases reported, however, victims are billed for the incoming international call if they answer, but also the unwanted “premium service,” which typically appears as a $19.95 charge. In some cases, crammers may only put a small charge of several dollars, so as not to arouse suspicion.

The area codes that appear on the caller ID often originate from the Dominican Republic (809), Jamaica (876), British Virgin Islands (284) and Grenada (473).

BBB recommends taking the following five steps to fight cramming:

· Keep a close eye on monthly statements. Anyone can become a victim of cramming so monitoring you monthly bills is extremely important. The sooner you spot the charges, the sooner you can fight them.

· Know your rights. Contact your telephone provider to see if you can completely restrict third-party billing on your account.

· Know whom you can trust online. Before handing over any personal information online, always research the business by going to bbb.org.

· Guard your personal information closely. Be wary when asked to provide personal information to sign up for a free trial or enter a sweepstakes. Always read the fine print on any offer so you understand how your personal information may be used.

· Know where to complain. If you are unable to resolve the issue either through your telephone provider or directly with the business, file a complaint with the FCC for charges related to telephone service and FTC for all other cramming charges on your phone bill. You can also file a complaint with BBB.

For more advice on managing personal finances and protecting your wallet, visit us online at bbb.org. To report a fraud or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373.