How the Phone Companies Are Ripping You Off

Lately, you’ve seeing the marketing blitz by the long distance phone companies advertising these 10-10-321 type phone numbers, right? The other day, I saw another commercial advertising a 10-10-220 commercial. And now there’s yet another company called Lucky Dog that’s advertising a 10-10-345 number.

The marketing gunk says you’re going to save money on long distance phone calls. Don’t believe it. It’s a big crock. Here, let me explain. I’ll decipher what all these numbers mean and show you exactly who owns who and where all your money is going.

First, let’s examine who’s doing the advertising. A quick check in some public directory information databases shows me that the 3-digit CIC (Carrier Identification Code) code of 220 belongs to Telecom USA. As does the carrier code number 321. What you might not know is that Telecom USA is actually owned by MCI. Lucky Dog, who uses 345, is a subsidiary of AT&T.

Now, what you need to know is that when you sign up for phone service with your local RBOC (Regional Bell Operating Company; Ameritech, BellSouth, PacBell, etc.), you are asked which long distance carrier you want to use. Most people choose one of the bigger companies like AT&T, Sprint, MCI or a whole host of others. The three digit CIC code for the LD carrier of your choice is then assigned as a default for long distance calls made from your phone. To dial long distance (and use your default carrier-of-choice), you simply need to dial 1-area code + phone number (1-xxx-xxx-xxxx). This is normal.

Now, if you buy into the advertising of the companies listed above, what you’re doing is essentially turning *off* the default CIC setting, for that call only. This is done by using the 101 code, placed in front of the number you are trying to dial. For instance, 10-10-321-1-xxx-xxx-xxxx would automatically make your call go through Telecom USA’s phone switch, regardless of who you have assigned as your long-distance carrier. Look at that number again, but this time see it as 101-0-321-1-xxx-xxx-xxxx.

For instance, 10-16-570 (or 101-6-570) is a company called “AP&T Long Distance.” No, that’s *not* a typo!

So, why are the phone companies doing this? They’re trying to trick you into using *their* network, so *they* can charge you, using *their* extravagant rates. It’s advertised as if you’re saving money, when in reality you’d probably be better off using your default assigned long-distance carrier. When you use the 10-10-xxx numbers, you will most likely end up paying something called a “Universal Service Charge,” usually around $5, a charge the company will bill as a “service” for switching your LD-carrier for that call. Some networks also have a 3-minute minimum charge.

What about phone “slamming?” Slamming is the illegal practice that some long-distance phone carriers are using to suck yet more money out of the unsuspecting. When your long-distance carrier is changed without your knowledge, you have been “slammed.” Most slamming is done by smaller LD-carriers with outrageous charges. Remember my AP&T example from above? Yes, that type of comapny…

What about “cramming?” Cramming is different from slamming. Cramming is the illegal act of adding miscellaneous charges to your long-distance portion of your phone bill. There are lots of ways for LD-carriers to add charges to your bill without your knowledge.

I hope this clears things up a little bit. I know it’s confusing, but please understand that the evil phone conglomerates like it this way. The more confused you are, the more opportunities thay have to take advantage of you. Don’t buy into the 10-10-xxx marketing pitches, as they will most likely end up costing you more that your default LD-carrier.

Miscellaneous Notes:

If you would like to find out who your LD-carrier is, try calling 1-700-555-4141 (Only in the USA). You will get a recording telling you who your carrier is. If you don’t trust this service, try calling your RBOC (Ameritech, BellSouth, etc.) and asking them. They are required to tell you.

An RBOC is also sometimes called an LEC (Local Exchange Carrier).

10-10-xxx used to be 10-xxx, for you old-timers.

10-10-220, owned by MCI (same people who own 1-800-COLLECT) charges you $.99 for 20 minutes, or 5 cents a minute. After that time (no more, no less) they up the charge to 10 cents a minute. So your minumum call is $.99. If you talk longer than 20 minutes, your bill for that call goes up, up, up.

Oh yeah, Sprint charges 25 cents a minute during the day. MCI charge 28 cents per minute.

AT&T’s One-Rate has a monthly fee of $4.95, as do most dime-a-minute plans. CGI Telecom charges 9.5 cents a minute (13 cents a minute in Texas)

You can look up the 3-digit CIC codes at the following address:

Posted by Cameron Barrett at October 21, 1998 11:59 PM