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Study Shows Some Calling Cards Defraud

Prepaid calling cards proclaim good deals, but you might not be getting what you paid for, according to a recent study conducted by the Hispanic Institute based in Washington, D.C.

The study included 45 calling cards. Each card was tested for one call each to Mexico and Guatemala.

  • One-third of the 45 cards tested delivered the full call-time promised.
  • Seven of the 45 cards (15.6 percent) tested didn’t work at all.
  • Eight of the cards tested had call completion rates of 50 percent or less. Three cards provided less than 20 percent of the minutes promised.

The Institute expressed concerns in a press release that the faulty cards are being targeted at recent immigrants who use them to make international calls home.

Local Hispanic merchants said they had mixed results with cards.

Marisol Guzman, an employee at Tacos Mexico, said her friend had problems with some calling cards. Guzman, who immigrated to the United States 10 years ago, said she prefers to use her cell phone to call friends and family back home at about 35 cents per minute.

Ann Rojas, owner of Tacos Mexico, said the cards sometimes promise 150 minutes but will only give 80. If a person doesn’t answer the call, that can also cost the caller money. Other cards will work as promised when first used, but the consumer might have problems with the card after the initial use, Rojas said.

Carla Ramos, co-owner of Garibaldi Latino Market, said she tries to steer customers to cards that are recommended by other customers. She said some cards will work better in calling particular countries or states within the United States. “Some of the cards with try to defraud people but not all companies,” she said. Ramos also said some of her customer had problems with cards not working as promised on subsequent uses. However, in general, she said she had few complaints about the cards the store carried.

Cards tested

The following cards were tested in the Institute study:

Florida ($5)  Telmex Compaqero, STI Florida, Touch-Tel Hondureqa, Touch-Tel Guatemalteca, Touch-Tel Salvadoreqa, Dollar Phone Coffee Time, Dollar Phone Rey, MPTAFlorida Idol, MPTA Nine, PCI Pilot, PCI Prima and TST Si Pues

New York ($2)  Diamond Bingo, Diamond Arenque, SDI I Love NY, Lycatel Success, Lycatel Call Me, STI World, RTG Martini, RTG Cocktail and IDT Play Ball.

Washington, DC ($2)  IDT Boss

Toll Free ($5)  GEO Florida

Neither of the Newton stores carried cards that were listed under the name brands of the cards that were tested in the Institute study.

Lt. T. Walton of the Newton Police Department said he was not aware of any problems in the Newton community with faulty cards. However, he said if the victims of the cards were in the country illegally, it was likely the crimes could go unreported. “They are great targets of crime,” he said.

If consumers discover fraudulent cards, they can report the crime to their local law enforcement office or the consumer protection division of the Kansas Attorney General’s Office. Walton suggested victims hang on to the card they had the problem with and the receipt from where they purchased it. However, Walton said because cards can originate from a variety of far-off places, prosecution of calling card fraud could be difficult.

Preventive measures might be the consumer’s best bet.

The Kansas Attorney General’s Office offered consumers several tips on how not to fall prey to calling card companies. The low per-minute rate advertised is often calculated based on making just one call for the total minutes of the card placed from somewhere other than a payphone. The Institute study tested the cards by placing one call to use up the balance of the card.

However, dropped calls, poor listening quality and post-dial delays of up to 50 seconds were hallmarks of the majority of cards tested. Fifteen cards allowed for the caller to utilize the entire time balance.

Tips for avoiding rip-offs

The attorney general’s office also suggested to watch out for the following:

• Surcharges for each call placed.

• Check how billing minutes are calculated. (Minutes used may be rounded up to the next minute.)

• Additional connect fees for international calls. These rates may vary depending on where you call. If you can’t find the rate on the call’s package or vending machine, call the card’s customer service number.

• Monthly service fee.

• Payphone surcharges.

• Check expiration dates. (Most prepaid cards expire one year after the first use)

• Companies you are not familiar with. Ask if the retailer will stand behind the card if the telephone service in unsatisfactory.

• Customer service access. If the customer service number isn’t toll free or displayed, it may be difficult to contact the company if you have a problem with the card. A busy signal on the customer service line may be a tip off to a rip-off.

• Make sure the card comes in a sealed envelope or has a sticker covering the PIN. Otherwise anyone who copies the PIN can use the phone time you’ve already paid for.

 
Source: http://www.thekansan.com/stories/010708/topstories_20080107026.shtml

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
ccexpert
Mar. 7th, 2008 01:44 pm (UTC)
Link to Network Analytics Study
Look at the report done by Network Analytics at:
http://thehispanicinstitute.net/files/Test%20Plan.pdf
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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