Slamming, A Classic ’90s Phone Scam, Is Still Alive And Well

Image courtesy of Bill Bradford

You might remember slamming, or switching someone’s long-distance carrier without their knowledge or permission, as a crime of the years just after phone deregulation, when the idea that one could switch long-distance carriers was novel. It’s a scam that still happens to people with landlines, though, and you should know how to prevent it, and what you should warn landline-having friends and relatives not to do.

There are two similar-sounding phone scams that work in similar ways. “Cramming” can also happen to mobile users, and is when a company adds charges for things like horoscopes by text or call-in services to your bill without you noticing. “Slamming” is when a customer’s long distance provider is changed without their permission.

How a man who went to CBS Sacramento’s consumer watchdog, Kurtis Ming, learned that he had been slammed was that he saw charges on his phone bill that he didn’t recognize. When he called up the company behind them, they played a recording of his voice assenting to… something.

He didn’t remember actually having the conversation that they played, but did remember answering a phone survey around the time that the billing switch happened. It was his voice saying “Mmhmm,” but he hadn’t given permission to switch his long distance carrier.

His phone provider, AT&T, explained that if a company engages in either slamming or cramming, they’ll suspend the company’s ability to bill you directly as a third party. Yet this same company paid a hefty FCC penalty a few years ago for the practice, meaning that they’ve probably been at this for a while.

Not answering “yes” to mysterious survey-givers over the phone is a good way to avoid a variety of scams. If you’re concerned that you or someone else might put charges like this on your phone bill, you can contact your provider to have a third party billing block put on your accoun. That applies to mobile phone accounts, too.

Call Kurtis: How To Prevent Companies From Cramming Your Phone Bill [CBS Sacramento] (Warning: auto-play video)

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.