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Customers, AG Hope to Hang Up on Phone Slammers

Posted Updated
Mike Easley, Attorney General
RALEIGH — The holiday season is here. It's a time of the year when a lot of peoplemake long distance phone calls. It's also the season for phone slamming, a tricky and sometimes costly scheme designed to get you to switch longdistance companies.

You can get "slammed" anywhere: On your home phone, your business phone and even your cell phone. It may have happened to you, and unless youreally read your bill, you may not even know it. The good news is, if youknow what you're doing, you can slam the slammers.

These days at the North Carolina Utilities Commission, they're gettingabout five calls a day. People are complaining about phone slamming. Thefiles are full of angry consumers whose long distance service was switchedwithout their knowledge or consent.

It's a confusing consumer controversy. Some people can't even find theevidence on their bills. But, there is a way to protect yourself.

Some long distance companies will use almost any trick in the phone bookto make the switch. Many use "cold calls." A phone solicitor will askyou about your current service. Often before the end of the call, you'vebeen slammed. North Carolina's Attorney General, Mike Easley, is workingon new regulations which could help hang up on the slammers.

There have 476 complaints so far this year in North Carolina. The worstviolator was a company called Windstar Gateway. They had boxes out instores to win a free trip to Hawaii. Everyone who signed up was slammed.Here's a number that will help. It's BellSouth's slamming hotline. By calling1-800-596-3319the operators can help you getyour money back.

BellSouth estimates half of its customers have been victimized at leastonce. The FCC ranks telephone slamming as the second largest communications problem in North Carolina.

This problem seems to be growing. In 1996, the FCC received 12,000 formalcomplaints against companies accused of slamming. That's 11,000 more complaints than in 1991.

Keep in mind, those numbers don't include the thousands of complaints thatnever make it past local service providers.

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