Wrong Numbers Help 'Crammers' Steal Millions

Telecoms turn a blind eye, critics say
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 1, 2010 4:33 PM CST
A pedestrian makes a call with his Motorola Razr cell phone in downtown Chicago, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009.   (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

(Newser) – A major FTC case is exposing criminals who use the obscurity of telephone billing to steal millions. A practice known as "cramming" takes advantage of misdials—a recent scheme used a number accidentally misprinted in a newspaper for a Toyota recall hotline—to tack on charges to phone bills. The FTC's case is against two brothers, Roy and John Lin, who made $19 million in obscure, bundled charges.

But the issue extends beyond alleged criminals like the Lins—their crimes are committed with the help of companies that bundle bills, and the major telecoms that accept those bundles. "These fly-by-night companies are out there and the telephone companies are happy to take their money," an official at the US Public Interest Research Groups tells the Washington Post.

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