Another scam for which Phonechoice receives lots of complaints is from people receiving huge bills for SMS messages.
Watch out for these mobile scams!
Scams & Ripoffs
Watch out for these mobile scams!
(in partnership with the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce)
The Australian Communications and Media Authority and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) are warning consumers that there are risks involved in buying phone calling cards from calling card operator, Global Networks (Aust) Pty Ltd.
These cards are sold under the following names: Call Plus, Call Express, Ezycom Phone Card, Ganga, Homeland Calling Card, Matrix Calling Card, MegaAfrica, MegaIndia, MegaLebanon, MegaVietnam, Oxygen Calling Card, Victory Phonecard, Virus Phonecard, Xtra Phonecard.
Problems have arisen with the use of these calling cards, with consumers complaining of cards failing to work and of not receiving the full value of the amount paid for the calling card.
Global Networks cards are still being sold by retail outlets nationwide. The company has failed to satisfactorily respond to the TIO in relation to a number of complaints. In the course of their investigations, the TIO and ACMA have become aware that the owner of the business has left the country and share a concern that any future complaints may not be addressed.
As Global Networks has failed to comply with the TIO Scheme, ACMA and the TIO would like to warn consumers that it is highly likely they will not be afforded the normal consumer protections if they buy cards sold by this company.
Phonechoice receives hundreds of complaints from parents of school aged children complaining that their children are receiving bills for ringtone scams that are being operated from overseas companies.
The children respond to an offer from an overseas company for a free ringtone. The children reply to the SMS or email and accept the free offer. Depending on the company to whom they have responded they are put into a database and find that they are being billed from $1.99 to $4.99 per week for a continuing service which they didn’t order.
A boy or girl receives an SMS saying, “its been so long we had a lot of fun, lets do it again”, signed Jenny (or some other name). The person receiving the SMS sends back a message to find out - 'who is Jenny?'.
The communication goes on and on. Each time the boy SMSs the girl it costs him 50 cents, each time the girl SMSs the boy it costs the boy $4.00. Bills can run into large figures very quickly.
The first people to know they have been caught in a scam are people that use prepaid cards. They go to make a call only to find they have no credit available.
Phonechoice research shows that 30% of consumers do not check their phone bills and unless there is a large difference in their monthly bills they simply pay the account not knowing they have been scammed.
Fake sign-ups to a telco
Beware operators who sign you up to a plan without your express consent or without showing you their terms and conditions.
Recently, a man was a victim of a telemarketing scam where two unscrupulous operators made a fake recording of his voice to claim that he had signed up with AAPT. This fraud was easily uncovered by AAPT, because every telco sales call must be recorded by law. AAPT went through the voice recording, compared it to the man's real voice, uncovered the fraud and rectified the situation at no charge to him.
Another man was contacted by a sales staff member from Astron Communications to switch his phone line to their company. He asked them to for the full terms and conditions in hard copy, so that he could understand their service and the benefits he would achieve by switching over his Telstra phone line to their company. They were reluctant to give the written details at first. Astron called him a few times and he insisted on seeing the actual terms and conditions before making the decision. Then they sent him a letter saying his line had been successfully connected to their override service and included a rate plan for calling overseas. He still did not get the terms and conditions. He clearly stated he did not want to make a decision before he saw the terms and conditions.
These two cases highlights how important it is for consumers to know their rights when dealing with telcos, and to make use of the protections and safeguards available to them from their telco.
You should expect:
- A verbal recording of the sales conversation, if desired.
- A welcome letter stating you have the right to rescind the offer within 10 days.
- Immediate action from your telco to address any complaints.
- Free access to any recording of your conversation.
- No charge if you change your mind within the 10 days and the terms of the agreement.
If you still believe that your situation has not been adequately handled, you can also approach the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman for assistance.
If you purchase a prepaid card for your child they can still run up credits for hundreds of dollars without you or your child being aware.
Hundreds of thousands of prepaid cards are being purchased every day by parents believing that the amount you pay for the card is the total amount for which you are committed, not true.
Without warning your card runs out of credit. Why ? because the overseas operator is slow in sending his bill for peripherals services to the Australian service provider to collect, and so you keep on using the card on phone calls only to find that your prepaid card or even your next pre-paid card contains 100s of dollars worth of extra charges you were not expecting and you may not have made the first phone call on the new card.
Many families are suffering financially from receiving huge bills from people using prepaid cards, Many of these extra charges come from premium services that are highly attractive to younger people who are not used to checking the fine print and are unaware of the hidden cost.
Before purchasing a prepaid card be sure that the amount on the card is the total amount you will be asked to pay. And make sure it is an Australian company that is making the offer.
Caller ID fraud
It is now possible for scammers and telemarketers to falsify call credentials, a practice known as "spoofing".
US companies are know trying to sell selling caller ID spoofing software into Australia, although as at March 2006 the issue has not alerted local industry groups and telecommunications regulators.
Even though spoofing companies like Spoofcard.com say their products are "intended for entertainment purposes only", anybody engaging in ID spoofing could be in breach of the law in Australia.
The Telecommunications act and Fair Trading Act are thought to prohibit the use of technologies like caller ID spoofing.
If you think you may have received a call from a fake caller ID, please contact PhoneChoice and we will bring it to the attention of the telecommunications and media regulator and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.
'Missed Call Marketing'
Mobile phones were targeted by a missed-call marketing scam to fool people into paying for calls from telemarketers.
Hundreds of people received a missed call to their mobile. It was either a Melbourne or Sydney number.
People who called the number back heard a recorded message that they had been "selected to collect an amazing gift with a value of at least $40". All they had to do was call a 190 number - at a cost of almost $3 a minute or more - to get their winner's code.
Only once they called the 190 number did consumers find out the gift was a collection of ringtones. After the "free" ringtones have arrived, consumers needed to opt out or face a continuing subscription of $4 a week.