phone bill scammers made $19 million in fees

Asians behaving badly... phone scam edition! The Washington Post recently ran a story on a resurgent wave of "crammers" -- scammers who sneak small, unauthorized fees onto your phone bill: Misdials help 'crammers' ring up millions in phone bill scam.

How much money can make from these annoying little fees? Two such crammers, Roy and John Lin, allegedly took in $19 million over five years from their operation:
The San Francisco brothers hired overseas telemarketers to offer directory assistance and other services to small businesses and ordinary Americans, according to a major case to be unveiled this week by the Federal Trade Commission. But their real goal was to sneak small, unauthorized fees onto thousands of monthly bills and hope the charges would go unnoticed, court documents state.

The scheme, known as "cramming," proved to be a boon, the documents show. The Lins' alleged take: $19 million over five years.
$19 million?! That's crafty. Here's how they did it:
Using a series of company names including Inc21, GlobalYP and Gofaxer.com, the Lins purported to sell Web site hosting, Internet yellow pages listings, search engine advertising and other services to small businesses and consumers. The telemarketers greeted potential customers by stating that they sought to "verify and update business information," without making it clear that they were seeking to add charges to their phone bills, the documents said. In many cases, Inc21 doctored tapes of the calls to make it seem like the customers had agreed to be billed.
Fortunately, they didn't get away with it. The FTC persuaded a U.S. district judge in California to force the Lins as well as Pacific Bell, the telephone company that received proceeds from the scam, to return the money to nearly 11,000 customers. My friends, be careful where you dial, and be aware of who's charging what on your phone bill.

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