Slamming is the practice of a long-distance carrier illegally switching your long-distance service to its own plan without your knowledge. Slamming is the single largest source of complaints filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the practice is still increasing. Most consumers don't even notice that they've been slammed, because they don't look very closely at their phone bills to see whom they are paying.
Slamming can happen without you doing anything, or it can happen when you enter a contest or respond to offers for free gifts. If you don't read the fine print, you may be authorizing a long-distance carrier to switch your service when you sign your name.
To protect yourself from being slammed, call your local phone company and ask for a "PIC" freeze. A PIC (Presubscribed Interexchange Carrier) is what the telecom industry calls your long-distance carrier. When you freeze your PIC, you are requesting that your local phone service not change your long-distance carrier unless you specifically call them and authorize it. There is also password protection to help ensure that someone else doesn't call to authorize the change.
If you've already been slammed, there are some steps you can take to correct the problem.
- Call your local phone company and tell them you have been switched to another long-distance carrier without authorization. They should be able to switch you back and should not charge you for the switching service.
- Call your long-distance carrier -- the one you thought you had, anyway -- and request that they return you to the same plan you had before. Again, there should be no charge for this.
- Call the long-distance company that slammed you and tell them to remove all charges for the past 30 days from your bill. You will have to pay for calls made more than 30 days prior to your noticing you had been slammed, but you will pay them to your original long-distance carrier at their rates.
- If the company who slammed you won't remove the charges, then file a complaint with the FCC.
If you notice you've been slammed after you've paid the bill, then the slamming long-distance carrier will have to pay your original long-distance carrier 150 percent of the bill. You'll be reimbursed that extra 50 percent by your original long-distance carrier.
Some states require that long-distance carriers use Third Party Verification (TPV) to verify that the customer is actually requesting that his or her service be switched to another long-distance carrier. The TPV will call you and ask you to confirm that you wish to switch your service.
You can always periodically check to see who your long-distance carrier is by calling 1-700-555-4141 from your home phone. To find out who your local phone service provider is, call 1-your area code-700-4141.