Watch Out For This Cellphone Scam

Be wary of people calling your cellphone claiming to be from your service provider and offering to upgrade your phone packages. They may actually be independent dealers trying to make a quick buck.

J.P. got one of these calls, and growing suspicious, she asked the lady to verify how many text messages she had sent in the past month. The caller was unable. J.P. hung up and called the number back on her caller ID, a woman at a wireless store at the local mall picked up….

(Photo: Paul Keleher)

I received a call from someone claiming to be “Cingular” on my cellphone, yet the caller ID displayed a local area code and phone number. The noise in the background didn’t sound like a typical call center; I could hear kids yelling and running around. Strange. The woman explained that the $9.99 “Media Basic bundle” plan that I signed up for last year was going to expire, and could not be renewed. What they offered in its place were a separate “Unlimited Text messaging” plan for $19.99 and “Media Plan (internet)” @ $4.99 per 1MB. I told her that the store where I bought the phone said nothing about my current Media Plan expiring in a year. She replied “This feature is pre AT&T merger, and will be discontinued once they are consolidated. You need to change your plan now to avoid any disruption in service.”

At this point I became pretty skeptical about the legitimacy of the call and in an attempt to challenge her said “Well, I really don’t need unlimited text messaging and can probably go with something based on my usage. Can you tell me how many messages I’ve sent and received last month so we can pick a plan based on that?”. After a very long and awkward pause, she told me that she was having a computer problem and unable to bring up that information on her screen.

“Well gee, I guess I may be out of luck then. Tell you what… Call me back later when your computer is fixed.” and hung up.

I picked up my office phone and dialed the number on my caller ID.
“Hello Smart Wireless, this is Kim speaking. How can I help you?”.
“Hi Kim, where are you located?”
“We’re in the XXXXXXXXX Mall, second floor.”

That only proved that they weren’t Cingular. I called Cingular’s 800 number and asked about my Media Plan, and lo and behold… it doesn’t expire and it’s not going away any time soon no matter what happens in the merger. After I explained about the odd phone call, the rep said it wasn’t them, and may have been one of their independent vendors and that they get calls about stuff like this ALL THE TIME.

Now I’m secretly hoping “Cingular” calls me back when my “Pre-Merger Media Plan” is “days away from expiration” so I can really take them for a ride. Anybody else run across this particular flavor of scam?