By David Sutta

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Joan and Raul Hernandez were just going about their day, when their June phone bill arrived in the mail.

“I noticed that there were two charges for our long distance, one from AT&T and they’ve been our carrier forever, but there’s also another one on here for $28.70 from ILD Teleservices,” Joan Hernandez told CBS4.

Watch David Sutta’s report, click here.

According to its website, ILD Teleservices “… is a leading payment processor for transactions between merchants and consumers.”

As CBS4 News discovered, consumers are not so happy with ILD. CBS4 News found more than 3,000 complaints about the company on the internet, many involved the elderly.

“Everyday you read or you hear about scams of senior citizens, so my husband and I are very wary,” said Hernandez.

Despite their wariness, the Hernadezes still fell victim to a scam called “slamming,” meaning that without their knowledge, their long distance provider was illegally switched from AT&T to a company called GPSPS.

“And we call GPSPS and they say they have a taped phone conversation with us, in which we approved for them to be our long distance carrier,” said Raul Hernandez.

Why would the Hernandezes switch from a $7 a month, all you can call, long distance plan, to one that would hike their monthly bill more than $100? They didn’t. And neither ILD nor GPSPS ever produced that audio tape for the Hernandezes. In fact, ILD promised to refund the charges in July.

According to Joan, “The July statement came and there was no credit for $28.70. Instead of a credit, there is now a charge for $130.60 from ILD.”

When contacted by CBS4 News, ILD issued a prepared statement saying it:

“… has stringent policies and procedures to guard against the processing of unauthorized transactions…”
and that “They (GPSPS) are an active client at this time.”

Joan Hernandez thinks this could all have been avoided if AT&T had been proactive about keeping its customers.

“If they had just reached out and said Mrs. Hernandez, Mr. Hernandez, did you switch your carrier?” Joan insisted.

In a statement to CBS4 News, AT&T said, “AT&T takes immediate action to help customers who contact us and report that they may have been billed for unauthorized third-party charges.”

Not so said the Hernandezes.

“I don’t think we would have ever gotten help if we hadn’t called you,” Joan said.

After CBS4 contacted AT&T, the company reversed the unauthorized switch and refunded the Hernandez’s money.

The Hernandezes suspect they got slammed because they had automatic bill pay. They have since canceled that, and are now paying by check.

To prevent this from happening to you:
-The F-C-C recommends you contact your phone company and put a “freeze” on your local and long distance accounts. This will require the carrier to contact you before making any changes.
-Thoroughly review your bill
-Avoid accepting collect calls and making 900 calls

Also, be advised that it’s not just your phone bill that is vulnerable to scams. To help you save your identity and your money, be aware of these new schemes.

Fraudsters are calling customers telling them that their electric bill is delinquent and their power will be shutoff within the hour unless the bill is settled with a pre-paid debit card.

Since the fraudsters can “spoof” caller ID and make it look like it’s your utility, you should hang up immediately and call your power company yourself to confirm the status of your account.

You should also be mindful of a nationwide water bill scam. The caller will claim that President Obama is providing funds to be applied to your utility bill.

You will be asked for your social security number.  Then, the scammers give you a phony bank routing number. Do not fall for this, and do not give out your social security number to any unsolicited callers.

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