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Phone Card Scams and How to Avoid Them

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We have our cell phones.  Many of us have an internet connection.  We have a seemingly overabundance of ways to communicate and keep in touch.  Despite this, phone calling cards are a major industry.  They play an important role helping people maintain communication with family and friends living elsewhere on the globe.  Because of the nature of the calling card industry and the potential to make money, nefarious individuals have cropped up and wait to take the money of those unsuspecting.  However, there are many red flags to look out for to help combat scammers and protect those who need to call home, wherever it may be.

Phone Card Scams and How to Avoid Them

Things to look out for:

Cards with falsely advertised minutes.  If a card says you’re supposed to get 30 minutes, you should get 30 minutes, right.  Unfortunately, this often not the case.  There are some reports suggesting calling card users may only get half of the amount they actually paid for.  Some of the discrepancy may come from the fact that some companies don’t advertise the full per minute fee.   Let’s say they advertise 5 cents a minute, but in reality its 5.9 cents a minute, which on a cent-by-cent basis is 6 cents.   This is in addition to a number of fees attached to every call that the user is making that also may have not been advertised, which leads to the next point.

Mountains of fees.  Much of these fees may be hidden, unadvertised, or buried as deep as possible in the fine print.  These fees can include maintenance fees, which may be charged to activate the card or even keep it activated until the funds either run out or the card expires.  Other fees include connect and disconnect fees.  Some cards will apply a fee every time a user makes a call, even if the call doesn’t go through.  Or for calls that go through, the user may then again be charged to end the call. 

The fine (or non-existent) print.  As mentioned previously, some calling card companies may try to hide important information related to fees and other usage details in the fine print.  Always read the fine print.  Often, it’s where you will find the most red flags.  Seeing too many numbers and confusing charges?  That might be a service you’re going to want to skip.  Another thing that tends to appear in the fine print: expiration dates.

Expiration dates.  It’s not uncommon for calling cards to carry an expiration date, so be aware of what that might be.  The more unscrupulous companies will try to give users the shortest amount of time they think they can get away with.  The worst of the worst may only give users 48 hours to use the card once it’s been activated and used for the first time.  While this tends to be rare, keep it in mind and look for cards that give users the most amount of time possible or better yet, don’t expire at all.

Just keep in mind that there are many trustworthy calling card companies out there that have excellent customer service and reasonable rates.  Don’t be afraid to shop around and do comparative research to find a card that will suit your, or a loved one’s, needs.  Hopefully soon, consumers will be better protected against calling card fraud and scams.  Many calling card companies are under scrutiny by the U.S. government, but the scrutiny may not be enough.  In 2008, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. sponsored a bill designed to apply regulation to the calling card industry.  If the bill had passed, it would have required calling card companies to disclose information related to charges and minutes available in an accurate and understandable fashion.  The bill, which would protect consumers, was reintroduced to the Senate in 2009, where it die.  It also light in 2010, where it passed in the House of Representatives, but failed yet again in the Senate.  The last apparent movement on the bill was in 2012, where it was once again brought into the House of Representatives for vote.  The bill can be seen here.

About the author:
Andrei Milosevic is an international student, traveler, and writer. Over the past few years, he has been studying international business and providing advice and insight into international calling. In his free time he kayaks and Skypes with his best friend back home in Serbia.

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