Put down the phone.  1-900 scams are back in style!

Whether you have ever placed a call or not, everyone has some familiarity with 1-900 numbers.  Over the years, they have been used to promote various services: chat with your favorite celebrities, get a psychic reading or make a love connection.  While the craze had calmed for a moment, 1-900 numbers have returned with a vengeance, offering an array of vital information, products and services. 

For those of you who have been the least bit tempted in picking up the phone, here are a few words of caution: the majority of these numbers you find online or on TV commercials are elaborate scams designed to steal money from the unknowing. 


When you think about, these scams prompt instant red flags and are based on profits.  Any 1-900 number is a pay-per call service.  This means that you are required to pay for the phone call based on the amount of time you remain on the line.  Though some of these services are genuine, many of them function by offering a decent product or service while attempting to keep you on the phone for as long as they possibly can.  If they are able to entangle you within this web of deception, be assured that you will feel the damage upon receiving your next phone bill.  Charges for a 1-900 service are set forth by the company owners, not a government agency or telephone company.  When in the hands of a conniving telephone solicitor, this is basically an official license to carry out scams. 

Regardless of how amazing the offer sounds, you should certainly be aware of these services.  In most cases, you have no idea of how long you will be on the phone - meaning you have know idea of how much one phone call will cost.  1-900 calls often include automated messages, ungodly holding periods and other built-in delays.  These factors are merely implemented to extend the duration of the phone call. 

Let's just say you made it through the call, realized your mistake and decided not to make a purchase.  Some time will pass but eventually you will be legally billed by your local phone company. 

Another popular 1-900 scam involves snail mail and email messages.  Upon receiving a letter, you are notified of winning a prize and instructed to call a 1-900 number to retrieve it.  Usually, these prizes are worth no more than a few dollars.  If this is the case, you've certainly been swindled.  Especially when the phone call could end up costing you $20 or more. 

Protecting against 1-900 scams 

The best protection against 1-900 scams is to elude these services completely.  However, if you do decide to participate, here are few practical rules that should be followed:

When dialing such a service, the first thing you should hear is a company name, description of the product or services being offered and the per-minute rate for the call.  From there, you should be granted a few minutes to commit and hang up before the per-minute rates begin to tally up.  

Any bills received for a 1-900 service should notify you of whom to contact if there is ever a problem.  A local or toll-free number should also be provided have you any desire to dispute these fees.  If problems continue, you can inquire within your local phone company about blocking your phone to prevent these scams from occurring. 

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Identity theft comes in many forms.

A person\92s identity can be 'borrowed' for the purpose of creating fictional credit cards or a person\92s entire identity can be usurped to the point where they can have difficulty proving that they really are who they claim to be.

Up to 18% of identity theft victims take as long as four years to realize that their identity has been stolen.

There are many ways to protect your personal identity and many steps you can take to prevent your identity from being stolen:

*Never give out unnecessary personal information
*Never provide bank details or social security numbers over the Internet
*Always remain aware of who is standing behind you when you type in your personal credit codes at ATM machines and at supermarket checkout swipe machines.