Slamming Scam Still Baffles Consumers

It seems like there is always something on the market when it comes to trying to take advantage of the consumer. One of these new scams is called SLAMMING. This is illegal and occurs when your traditional telephone carrier is switched by a telemarketer to another company without your permission.

There are a number of ways this is done:
o Promotional materials or contest entry forms are mass mailed that have small print saying you agree to switch carriers.
o An imposter calls saying they represent your current company and ask if you are interested in a new calling program. This is tape-recorded and if you say "Yes" it gives them permission to switch your carrier without any further notice.
o Pager or voice mail numbers you answer that you do not recognize are a huge problem. It is possible for a slammer to use Automatic Number Identification information to process a change of service without you even saying anything.

Of course, if you discover that you have been "SLAMMED" you should immediately contact your original telephone company. There are slamming rules prohibiting unreasonable delays in getting your original phone company back. Under FCC rules if you discover you have been "SLAMMED" without your permission you should call that company and tell them you want to be switched back. You do not have to pay for the first 30 days of service. You can also file a complaint with the FCC.

Among other things, this section of the FCC ruling has aggressive rules to take any profit out of slamming such as absolving subscribers of any charges and requiring the slammer to "compensate the subscriber for any inconvenience or confusion experienced." There have been court challenges to this law, but it has put teeth in protecting the public from this fraudulent practice.

If you wish to verify who your authorized telephone company is, you can call the following companies toll-free:
o 1-700-55-4141 for international or long distance services and
o 1 + your area code+700-4141 for local services

The government is aware of the practice of illegal switching and has amended Section 258 of the Communications Act of 1934 to include strict rules regarding this practice. The goal of this amendment is to "... eliminate the practice of slamming". For further information, you can contact the Federal Communications Commission at 888-225-5322, or go to www.fcc.gov to find the steps available to correct the situation if you have been 'SLAMMED'. For consumers it's important to review monthly bills to identify inconsistencies. When Slamming has occurred, a new company and charges will be listed on your telephone bill. Always check your telephone bill carefully and inform the unknown company that you did not agree to a new service then contact your old carrier, tell them you were slamming, and request that you be switched back.

This fraudulent practice began in 1996 at which time the Communications Division of the government began taking steps to eradicate it. In spite of government intervention, the number of complaints has more than doubled since that time. It is felt that this is due to consumers not being aware of their options in seeking relief. Should this happen to you it is important to contact the numbers listed above regarding the proper actions to take. You do not have to be stuck with a telephone company you did not choose.

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