The Better Business Bureau of Kansas Inc. is warning consumers about three common scam terms: "cramming," "phishing" and "smishing."
"Cramming" occurs when a company adds a charge to your phone bill for a service that you did not order, agree to or use. The charges appear as small fees you may owe, making them difficult to recognize. These fees may be for voice-mail services, ringtones or club memberships.
Cramming charges have shown up recently on major credit cards, when consumers have entered a sweepstakes, called a psychic hotline or signed up for a subscription service for daily jokes, class reunion lists or horoscopes.
Victims of so-called "cramming" often face difficulties stopping the charges and getting their money back for these monthly charges.
The BBB recommends taking the following five steps to fight cramming:
* Check monthly statements. Anyone can become a victim of cramming, so monitor monthly bills.
* 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 giving personal information online, research the business with the BBB by calling 800-856-2417 or on the Web at www.kansasplains.bbb.org.
* Guard your personal information closely. Be wary when asked to give personal information to sign up for a free trial or enter a sweepstakes. Always read the fine print on offers so you understand how your personal information may be used.
* Know where to complain. If you are unable to resolve the issue through your telephone provider or directly with the business, file a complaint with the FCC for charges related to telephone service and the FTC for all other cramming charges on your phone bill. You may also file a complaint with the BBB.
"Phishing" is a way of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as user names, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. These e-mails can appear legitimate, so exercise caution. If in doubt, contact the company and ask if it sent you the e-mail or simply delete it.
"Smishing" scams target cellphone users. Like traditional "phishing," "smishing" schemers often pose as banks or lottery sweepstakes, asking customers to contact them immediately about a pressing issue that needs to be discussed.
Victims of the bank scam are often asked to call a toll-free number to provide debit card information or account numbers with passwords, to a fake automated system. Victims complain they have received text messages claiming their bank account is frozen, with a toll-free number to call to clear things up.
If asked for bank information, call your bank immediately rather than the number indicated in the message. Do not reply to the message. Scammers could be testing the number to see if it is active. Call your cellphone provider to block the number, as well as any premium text messages. You may add your cellphone number to the National Do-Not-Call registry by calling 888-382-1222 or online at www.donotcall.gov.
VIP Rewards — The BBB is investigating a mailing consumers have received regarding VIP Rewards of South Portland, Maine. VIP Rewards states in the mailing that it is accredited with the BBB and is in good standing. It has been confirmed with the BBB of Boston that VIP Rewards is not accredited at this time.
Timeshare reselling scams — The FTC says timeshare scams have tripled in the past two years. The BBB will share tips from the FTC for those who want to buy or sell timeshares.
Roberta Namee and Mary Ann Redeker-Perez work for the Better Business Bureau in Wichita. If you have questions or concerns about a company, contact the bureau at 800-856-2417 or www.kansasplains.bbb.org.