This phone trick could let scammers charge you on the down-low

You may never look closely at your phone bill, but the Better Business Bureau says you may want to start.

Posted: Dec. 8, 2017 9:34 AM

You may be in a giving mood during the holidays, but donating to what you think is a charity could start draining your bank account a few dollars at a time.

It's called cramming, and it's a trick scammers use to add third-party charges to your phone bill.

"Many years ago consumers didn't have credit cards or online banking and the technology of your landline phone bill and now our cellphone bills, allowed us to charge something to our telephone bill," says Kathleen Calligan from The Better Business Bureau. "Today many of us have forgotten that, but if we look on our telephone bill -- and I know we don't -- you'll see that there can be third party billing."

The charges are often for subscriptions to horoscope readings, love and dating advice or ringtones. If the consumer sees the charge and reports it to their phone company, the scammers can show that you've subscribed by playing for them a call where you said yes.

"All you have to do is say 'yes' to something, just in general conversation. A scammer can pick that out of a recording and they can put third-party charges on your phone bill," explains Calligan.

How do the scammers get your 'yes'? Earlier this year there was an increase in robo-calls where the person on the other end of the line asked "Can you hear me?" The answer "yes" was recorded. Those calls were being reported across the country.

The scammers are sly by adding the charges in $3 to $9 increments.

"So small every month and you won't even slightly notice a change in the bill and it will stay there for years," said Calligan.

So how can you protect yourself? If you get a robo-call or a call with someone on the line asking anything that would draw a positive response such as "yes" or "okay," don't say anything and hang up the phone. The FTC also urges consumers to report the call by going to www.ftc.gov.

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