Learn more about common phone scams and ways you can protect yourself.
Cramming and slamming scams
According to the National Fraud Information Center, “Cramming” is a popular scam. Cramming is when telephone customers are charged for services they've never ordered or received. Also common is "slamming"—when customers have their telephone service switched to a new carrier without their permission.
- You receive a sweepstakes promotion in the mail telling you to call an 800 number to win a prize. When you make the call, it activates an automated system and you’re unknowingly enrolled in a club or program. The charge is then added to your phone bill.
- You fill out a contest entry form and the promoter uses your phone number to sign you up for a calling card, voicemail, long distance, or some other service. The fine print on the form said that by entering the contest, you are signing up for the service or agreed to switch your long-distance provider.
- You receive a call from a telemarketer asking you to switch your long-distance provider. Although you say you’re not interested, your long-distance provider is changed anyway.
- Read your phone bill carefully every month. Look for unfamiliar company names, logos, or charges for features or services you don't understand or remember ordering. Call your carrier or the numbers associated with the charge and ask for an explanation.
- Also check your phone bill to make sure you still have the long-distance company you selected. You can also call (toll free) 1-700-555-4141 from your home phone to verify your long-distance company.
- Ask that all offers from communications providers be sent to you in writing, and review them before making a decision. Read offers carefully before signing any form, contest entry, check, or survey. Make a note of the name and telephone number of the marketing representative in case you need to reach the company in the future.
Making international calls unintentionally
In most cases, you have to dial 011 to call a foreign country. However, there are some locations outside the U.S. with telephone numbers that look like domestic long-distance calls. For example, 809, 284, and 876 are area codes in the Caribbean—international calls with international rates.
- You see an ad for a service that directs you to call a specific number, or you receive a page, email, or "urgent" message on your answering machine. The ad or message tells you to call a number for more information, which is actually an international number.
- Be cautious about making calls to area codes you don't recognize.
- Determine where the area code is before making your call (check your telephone directory or call the operator).
- Control access to your telephone so that no one uses your phone to call these services. A block on calls to 900 numbers doesn’t stop calls to international destinations or 809 numbers. If you're sure you won't need to make international calls, call your long-distance carrier and ask them to put an international block on your telephone line.
Call forwarding scam
- You get a call or message where the caller asks you to dial two digits and the * or # key (such as *79 or 72#), and then another phone number. The caller says this is so you can claim a prize or help them connect to another party. It actually programs your telephone to forward your calls to another number, possibly a toll or long-distance number. The scammers can call your number to be forwarded to the number you dialed. They then can place calls that are billed to you.
- Ignore these calls. If you receive this type of call, hang up. If you receive a message like this, don’t make the call.
Caller ID spoofing
- Scammers can manipulate caller IDs to make people believe the call is from a legitimate company.
- This scam is not limited to phone calls. Scammers have also started using text messaging, instant messaging, and blogs to send unsolicited commercial email.
- Always be cautious about providing personal information over the telephone.
How to Report Phone Fraud
To report violations of the National Do Not Call Registry, visit DoNotCall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222. (If your name is on the Do Not Call Registry, you should only receive calls from companies that you do business with or companies that you gave permission to call. If you receive a call from another company, report it. You will need the name and number of the caller and date and time of the call.)
- Visit ftc.gov or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.
- The complaint that you report will be submitted into the Consumer Sentinel Network, which is a database that is used by law enforcement agencies across the world. It helps them to track down the culprits and eventually stop the fraud.