Thousands of miles from home, struggling to learn the language, earn a living and live the American dream – immigrants face so many challenges when they come to the United States. It’s enough to make you want to call home.
Unfortunately, those challenges make them easy targets for criminals, particularly those who scam immigrants through pre-paid calling cards. The phone card business brings in billions of dollars per year, selling primarily to immigrants who use the cards to call relatives outside the U.S.
The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on fraudsters who take advantage immigrants, and recently shut down a company that made false promises about pre-paid phone cards. DR Phones allegedly made deceptive claims about the number of minutes and fees on a series of international calling cards that were sold in convenience, grocery stores and kiosks across the country.
Of the 169 DR Phone cards tested by the FTC, none of them provided the advertised amount of minutes, with the worst card providing less than 1% of the promised talk time. Most of the cards delivered an average of 40.42% of the promised minutes.
Even though many of the cards promised no connection or maintenance fees, the small print – difficult to understand even for native English speakers – would disclose confusing exceptions such as international calls made to cellular phones and calls via toll free numbers are billed at higher rate.
DR Phone operations have been halted pending trial.
Follow Elise Rambaud Marrion on Twitter @emarrion_cmn.