Prepaid Calling Cards: Phone Scam Overview

If you have family members or friends living in another country you may have purchased prepaid calling cards in order to keep in touch with them. These cards sell long-distance minutes in a block and can be great for keeping in touch when a wifi connection is weak or isn’t available to both parties.Prepaid Calling Cards Phone Scam

While some of these cards can be a great deal. Other prepaid calling cards can be a total scam. Here are some of the things you need to watch out for when purchasing these cards.

What Are Prepaid Calling Card Phone Scams?

Your prepaid calling card could have a slew of hidden fees attached to it which can make it a complete scam. For example, you purchase a 90-minute calling card to keep in touch with a friend living in South America. Before you know it the card is no longer working and you didn’t even talk for 90 minutes using it.

The card may have stopped working for the following hidden reasons:

  • Quick expiration date - the card may have expired within a couple of weeks of purchase.
  • Minimum call length - even though you only spoke for 21 minutes you were charged for 25 minutes. Many times these cards are broken down into several minute long blocks and will charge you a full block even if you didn’t fully use it.
  • Activation and connection fees - Money may have been deducted from your card just for setting it up, or for each time you made a call.

How to Protect Yourself From Calling Card Scams

The FTC has good guidelines on what to do before purchasing a prepaid calling card. Some of the most important things to look for are as follows:

Does the card provide a toll-free number for customer service?

In case your card isn’t working or the call quality is very poor there should be some sort of guarantee or customer service number that you can call for free. If the calling card doesn’t have either of these look for a different one.

Are there connection or service fees?

Find out how much the calling card will charge you before purchasing make sure that if the card is for 120 minutes this isn’t for only one call, but that the minutes can be used in multiple calls.

What is the expiration date?

Make sure that if there is an expiration date, it’s clearly visible. Avoid cards that have a quick expiration date, or that have no expiration date visible but do not say “no expiration date”.

Are the minutes for a landline number or cell phone number and are they different rates?

Making a call to a cell number can be more expensive than making a call to a landline. Be sure to check for different rates if any.

How to Report a Calling Card Scam

If you’ve bought a calling card that you feel defrauded you and did not display terms clearly then you should file a claim with the FCC and the FTC. Both organizations allow complaints to be filed online, or you can call a toll-free number.

The FCC can be reached at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) (TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322). The FTC can be reached at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) (TTY: 1-866-653-4261).

If you’ve got friends and family living outside of the country or you’re thinking of spending some time abroad exploring check out our guide on the best phone plan and iPhone for American digital nomads. Thanks to advances in technology and an awesome plan from T-Mobile it’s now easier to travel and stay in touch than ever before.