How Long-Distance Scams Work

10-10-XXX: Dial-around Services

Dial-around services are one of those services you see advertised that tell you to dial "10-10" and then three more numbers to bypass your regular long-distance carrier and save money. What they don't tell you is that you may not save any money at all; in fact, you may spend more for your long distance.

While not every dial-around service is out to scam you, some are, and you should be aware of how they operate. The catch with dial-around services is sometimes hard to figure out. Here are some examples of things to watch out for.

  • Many times, the discount or advertised price only kicks in after you've talked for 10 or 20 minutes. Until then, you'll be paying extremely high rates for a short call.

  • They may say that they offer a 50-percent savings over "basic" long-distance rates. That may still be higher than your existing long-distance carrier charges because you probably aren't subscribing to the "basic" service.

  • They may advertise a 20-minute call for $0.99. What they don't tell you up front is that any call under 20 minutes is $0.99, so even a one-minute call costs $0.99.

  • They may advertise $0.10 per minute. What they don't tell you up front is that there is also a $0.10 fee for every call, so even a one-minute call costs $0.20.

  • They may advertise $0.09 per minute on evenings and weekends, and $0.20 per minute for weekdays. What they don't tell you up front is that they also charge a 4.8-percent surcharge on all of your calls for the Universal Service Fund (USF), which is probably also charged by your regular long-distance carrier.

  • They may advertise $0.05 per minute for the first 60 days, and then $0.07 per minute thereafter. What they don't make obvious is that there is also a $4.95 service fee and $1.49 USF charge each month.

As you can see, you really have to ask questions and read all of the literature about these types of services. They can be a good deal in some instances. Just make sure you find out about:

  • Monthly service fees
  • Minimum call lengths
  • USF and other surcharges
  • Restrictions and rate differences based on the time of day

There may also be restrictions from your regular phone service. For example, some wireless phone contracts don't allow dial-arounds or phone-card use.