Have you ever tried to place a call and gotten a message that the call is outside your plan and you’ll be charged a penny per minute?
That’s a sign that you’re about to be “traffic pumped” — and it’s a ripoff you need to know about!
Read more: Best cell phone plans and deals for 2017
That “free” call may be anything but free
Here’s the deal: Rural carriers are allowed under federal law to charge wireless and long distance carriers higher access fees for calls to local subscribers.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports the rural carriers partner with chat lines, adult entertainment calls, “free” conference call outfits and others that are not domiciled locally. The goal is to artificially inflate the call volume into the home area codes of the rural carriers.
With inflated call volumes, the rural carriers can then bill the wireless and long distance companies an exorbitant amount and give the chat lines a kickback.
That’s what traffic pumping is.
Unfortunately, the burden of the higher charge is shared by your wireless or landline provider with you — hence the warning about paying more that you hear at the start of an out-of-plan call.
If you hang up before the call connects, you’re billed nothing.
Area codes that participate in traffic pumping are typically located in scarcely popular rural parts of a couple of Midwestern states. These two area codes in particular are notorious for traffic pumping:
- Area code 218 in northern Minnesota
- Area code 712 in western Iowa
Don’t forget about the one-ring scam!
A separate but similar scam is the one-ring cell phone scam. In this scam, crooks use robocalling technology to place Internet calls that only ring once to cell phones.
If you pick up, the robocaller just drops the line. But the bigger danger is if you miss the call. Like so many people, you might think it’s an important call and dial that number right back.
Bad move. Turns out the area codes are largely located in the Caribbean and will cost you $15 to $30 between international fees and per minute charges!
So with that in mind, the FCC says you should never call back numbers in these area codes:
When an unfamiliar number comes in, you’re better off waiting for a voicemail to determine if you have a legitimate caller before calling it back. You can also Google the phone number itself. If the number is a scam, chances are good that others will have posted warnings about it.