Calling Card Question & Answers
Q: Are fraudulent cards really that big of a problem?
A: Absolutely. If you don't believe this is a huge problem, I challenge you to go out and buy five cards and test them yourself. You'll instantly see how widespread this fraud has become.
Q: Aren't most of the folks who use these calling cards illegal immigrants?
A: Certainly, some of the users of these phone cards are undocumented immigrants, but many, many more are newly nationalized American citizens. Many are in the military, stationed away from home. Also, the elderly and those with low incomes are often victims of these phone card scams.
Such folks don't generally have the resources or knowledge to fight back against crooked firms, and we ought to be outraged as fellow consumers that such blatant fraud is being committed without repercussions.
Q: Exactly how widespread is this problem?
A: We've tested these cards internally and found that the problem is rampant – most cards provide only 60% of what they promise. The Hispanic Institute is now in the process of commissioning a more extensive study with an independent research firm.
Q: Who funds the Hispanic Institute?
A: The Hispanic Institute is funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, as well as private foundations, individuals, and charities.
Q: Aren't there laws dealing with truth in advertising and the like already in place to address these types of consumer issues?
A: There are laws in place that should address this issue, but unfortunately they're simply not being enforced. More public pressure is necessary to force our law enforcement officials to take the problem seriously.
Stronger consumer protections are also critical to solving this problem. Dishonest firms should not be allowed to hide fees and conditions in the fine print. They ought to lay out the rules up front, in plain language for all to see. And they ought to deliver on their promises.
Q: Do you think ordinary people will care about this issue, given that many of the victims are illegal immigrants?
A: I believe that everyone should care about this issue. Whenever businesses engage in shady or fraudulent practices, we as consumers ought to stand up to them and demand that they be prosecuted.
Further, America has a history of being a welcoming society, caring for all the members of our various communities. It would be shameful if we betrayed that spirit of community and opposition to injustice just because a few of the victims of this crime are not American citizens.
Q: Why have there not been more complaints by consumers?
A: Prepaid phone cards have plummeted in price since their introduction. In fact, the most common card sold costs only $2. So someone missing 60% of his minutes is going to – what? File a complaint about getting ripped off by 80 cents? And who's going to listen to a $2 complaint anyway.
But cumulatively, it adds up to millions of dollars a day in theft. And over time, it can take away a good-sized chunk of someone's hard-earned income.
Q: What do you think about the current system of disclosure used by these calling card companies?
A: The terms and conditions of many of these cards are way too complicated. You shouldn't need a magnifying glass and a calculator to figure out how much a phone call is going to cost. It's critical that the disclosure of terms on these cards be upfront, simple, and in plain language for everyone to understand.