The other day a friend forwarded me an email she had received from her friend (always a warning sign, right there). The email warned that cell phone numbers have now been released to telemarketers, and that I should call an 800 number to put my cell phone in the “Do Not Call” registry. I immediately went to www.snopes.com, a great place to check out rumors and urban legends. Sure enough, the “cell phone and telemarketers” rumor was mentioned right there on the home page. This one turns out to be pretty harmless, although some people have reported being charged a fee after calling the toll-free number. But it got me to thinking – what other ways are we being scammed, hoaxed or just nickel-and-dimed on our cell phones?
The first place to start is by reading your cell phone contract closely. Make sure you know how many minutes and text messages are covered so you don’t go over your allotment and incur extra charges. Also be careful of offers for free ring tones if you return a call or dial an 800 number. These may actually cost a lot and/or automatically sign you up for a monthly charge. Same thing goes for free applications.
Be wary of calls from your cell phone company offering to switch you to a better service. These may actually be calls from a competing phone company who then switch you to their service, costing you termination and set-up fees. Always ask the caller to verify your account by providing you with some pieces of information – don’t do it the other way around.
I’ve read several reports of users receiving text messages from their bank that their account has been compromised, asking the user to call an 800 number where they are then asked for an account number, PIN and other personal information. It should go without saying that you should never give personal information of any kind over the phone or internet without being 100 percent sure of who you are giving the information to.
Finally, thieves are getting crafty about using cell phones to steal data. Scambusters (www.scambusters.org) report instances of thieves using the camera in their phones to take pictures of credit cards. Also the video capability can be used to record your PIN when you are standing at an ATM machine.
The bottom line is to always protect your personal information as much as possible and to check out any offers carefully before buying (and that applies to free offers too.)
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