Pay phones at the center of a travel ripoff

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RIP-OFF ALERT: Pay phones have re-emerged as the center of a new rip-off that’s plaguing travelers in airports across the nation.

One in three Americans now has a smart phone and travels with it regularly. Many of those smart phones are Androids, which have notoriously short battery life spans. It’s like the batteries drain as if Dracula were sucking the life out of them every day!

That means travelers naturally have trouble keeping a charge. So what do they do when their phone dies and they have to make a call? They turn to pay phones. (It used be that you’d have huge banks of pay phones at every gate in the airport. Now you have to really hunt for one.)

Payphone operators will have a sticker on the side of the phone booth that discloses the price, usually something like three minutes for 50 cents or five minutes for a dollar or what have you.

So you pick up the phone to make a call and dial in your credit card or debit card number. Pretty simple, right? No way! The next thing you know, you get billed for $20 or $30 even though the rates were clearly disclosed on the phone. You then have to go through the hassle of doing a dispute with your credit card company and it’s just a headache. It turns out some pay phone operators are lying about their prices.

So here’s my advice: If your cell runs out of juice, I want you to go make change first. Get those quarters so you can put them in and then make the call. If it doesn’t work, at least you’re only out a few coins and not $20 or $30.

The Los Angeles Times  names one egregious pay phone company in particular. BBG Communications works as a subcontractor for a company that operates more than 40,000 pay phones at airports, gas stations, hospitals and prisons across the country.

But BBG has done business under a whopping 51 names since 2008, including Airport Call, Faircall, Credit Phone, Telecom Call and Yak Communications, to name a few. Most of the name changing is allegedly to prevent the company from being tracked down and held accountable over its bogus billing practices.

Be careful out there…and make change before using a pay phone!




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