Avoiding cell phone scams
WHILE CELL PHONES are incredibly useful and
have dramatically changed and enhanced our lives,
they can also be a source of scams. Here are some
common cell phone scams and how to avoid them.
A tech-savvy thief clones your cell phone wirelessly and steals your identity, including your cell
number and its unique serial number. Then the
thief programs another phone with your details and
makes calls at your expense.
Action: New technology makes it more difficult
to scan the number. Always read your bill closely,
and if you see any charges that you feel are not due
to your cell phone use, alert your carrier.
Thieves can listen to your calls and download
your phone records through electronic software.
They can even find out where you are, or where you
have been at a particular time, by tracking you
Action: Turn the phone off and on throughout
the day. This resets any signal and can help you avoid
electronic eavesdropping and wireless tracking.
Lost or stolen phones
More than 3 million cell phones are lost or stolen in the U.S. every year. In the wrong hands they
can be used to make unauthorized calls and can end
up costing you a fortune. A thief can steal your personal information, your contact list and all important data from your SIM (Subscriber Identity
Action: For a minimal fee, you may want to buy
the monthly insurance offered, so your phone will
be replaced, in addition to being protected by warranty. If you lose your cell phone or it is stolen, make
sure to alert your carrier right away, so they can
reimburse you for any calls made and issue you a
new, protected SIM card.
Random text messages
You may receive an unsolicited text message
that prompts you to take some sort of action. Most
common is what seems to be a message from your
bank stating that your account has been suspended.
The sender may ask for your PIN and other personal details.
Action: Call your bank if you receive this message. If your bank, your real estate agent, your stockbroker or any other important person in your life
needs personal information, speak to that person
over the phone or in person and never provide such
info via text message.
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Ring tone scams
Some free downloadable ring tones are hacked
by scammers who can install a virus that damages the
phone or steals confidential information.
Or, you may get a text message inviting you to
download a ring tone by returning another message
or calling a 1-800 number. When you do this, you
may incur a hefty charge and unwittingly sign up for
a monthly service that you don’t want.
Action: Download tones from established, reputable companies only. Don’t return messages or
calls from people or organizations you don’t know.
Subscriber fraud occurs when someone steals
your personal information and opens a cell phone
account and racks up huge bills in your name.
Subscriber fraud costs the cell phone industry an
estimated $150 million a year.
Action: Protect yourself from
identify theft and thieves cannot open
a false subscription. A variety of websites can advise you on steps to take to
protect your identity. (Costco also
offers identity-theft protection
for members. Visit Costco.com
and click on “Services.”—Ed.)
I BOUGHT A truck a few
years ago. Recently, I took
the truck into a national
transmission repair shop
for service. They replaced
several parts, repaired the
transmission and serviced
the engine. I drove the truck
away, and after less than
100 miles it just stopped
moving. I took the truck
back and was told that the
radiator was leaking antifreeze into the transmission.
The truck needs to be fixed
and I am out of money. Who
shall I hold accountable
and what can I do?
“Vote” by phone
You may receive a text
or recorded message urging
you to vote by pressing a
key on your phone. This is
a trick meant to stop you
from casting a real vote for
a specific candidate. It is a
federal offense to trick people out of their votes.
Action: Avoid this
scam by voting in person or
by mail, and never by phone.
Regard your cell phone
the same way you would your
credit cards or driver’s
license. Look out for scams
that will put you at risk of
identity theft and cost you a
fortune in time, security
and money. C
The service center that ser-
viced your car may have
botched the repairs. Even if
there were an issue with the
antifreeze, it is an
issue that the ser-
vice center needs
to take up with the
it is not your prob-
lem. At a mini-
mum, if there
was a leak in
they should have
informed you when
you were at the shop.
The repair center is
responsible, and they
likely have insurance
for a matter like this. It
is up to you, the cus-
tomer, to hold the shop
accountable. Alert them
of the problem, and
demand that you get the
service you deserve. C
© 2011 FIGH T BACK! INC. ALL RIGH TS RESERVED.
AMY CAN TRELL
David Horowitz is a leading consumer advocate (
He is a frequent guest on radio and television stations. Consult your
local listings for dates and times.
MARCH 2011 ;e Costco Connection 17
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