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FCC Targets Fraud In Texting, and Slamming and Cramming

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Jun 8, 2018, 12:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   @zeman_e

The FCC took more actions this week to protect consumers from unwanted charges and changes to their telephone service. First, the agency wants to prevent the fraudulent use of toll-free numbers for text messaging. The FCC admits that toll-free texting is a valuable tool for businesses, but there is little clarity on what entities are allowed to authorize those numbers. "This lack of clarity could facilitate fraudulent behavior. For example, a toll free number on the back of a credit card could be text-enabled by a third party without the knowledge of the bank that subscribes to the toll free number, and fraudulent texts could then be sent to a consumer asking for sensitive account information," explained the agency. As such, the FCC wants to clarify that text messaging providers may not text-enable toll-free numbers without proper authorization. Further, the FCC wants to prevent messaging providers from text-enabling numbers that are not yet assigned to subscribers, as well as ensure that messaging providers disable toll free texting upon request by the subscriber. The agency is seeking comments on its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking before putting any regulatory changes into effect. Separately, the agency took new steps in order curb slamming and cramming. Slamming is the practice of changing a consumer's preferred telephone provider without their permission, while cramming is putting unwanted charges on consumer's phone bills."Unscrupulous phone companies target vulnerable Americans by misrepresenting themselves on sales calls or fabricating a consumer’s verification to switch service providers. Others go so far as to ask consumers to answer questions on an unrelated call and splice the responses into the alleged verification. And some simply cram charges on consumers’ telephone bills for services that they never authorized," explained the agency. The agency is calling for an outright ban on misrepresentations made during such sales calls, as well as invalidating any authorizations made by consumers based on being presented with fraudulent or false information. The FCC said it will suspend the rights of companies that are caught slamming and cramming.

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