The tipoff: Bogus collect calls on your phone bill.
The scam: A nationwide collect-call scheme reaped millions of dollars, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Last month, two individuals settled charges by the agency in connection with the scheme, but for pennies on the dollar. Yaret Garcia and Erika Riaboukha agreed to judgments totaling more than $34 million. They will pay only about $87,000 of that, however, based on their current financial situation. In settling, the defendants did not admit guilt.
The crime: Placing fictitious or inflated charges on a phone bill is often referred to as "cramming," and indeed these fees are often hard to detect when crammed into a list of legitimate charges. According to the Federal Trade Commission, they are sometimes added as a result of a consumer calling a shopping, sweepstakes, dating or adult entertainment service that has been advertised as "free." And sometimes, as in the alleged collect-call scam, they're simply added.
Defend yourself: The best defense is to carefully check your monthly telephone bill for bogus charges.
Info: A consumer sheet on cramming is at www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/products/pro18.shtm
-- David Colker