of Fraud in Prepaid Phone Card Services
by Nebi Alemu
on current reports it is apparent that Ethiopians in North America
have been struggling to get good rates when calling back home.
Until recently, it was arduous for many of us to keep in touch
with our familes at an affordable rate. By ignoring basic business
laws and ethics many prepaid phone card companies have commenced
to offer relatively low rates to Ethiopian customers in North
America. How is this feasible?
According to recent news stories
in local Addis Ababa newspapers, there was an organization providing
telecommunication services without legal permission. It had been
operating for at least two years in the capital. This illegal
operation used 150 telephone lines, mobile phones, VSAT and switchboards.
Prepaid calling cards such Hello Africa, Simply Africa and Hello
Addis were using this system to operate. This operation ended
up costing the Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation losses
amounting to millions of dollars.
As this fraudulent event unfolds,
it seems the prepaid calling card market to Ethiopia is on the
verge of collapse in the United States. Thus, it is timely and
important to familiarize ourselves and become knowledgeable about
the calling card market.
It is relatively easy to get
into the prepaid calling card business, but the competition can
be intense. There are different layers and levels of participation.
Long distance carriers provide the underlying services, while
resellers buy minutes from long distance carriers. Minutes are
sold to companies or individuals called “Issuers”
who then set prices and provide customer service. In some cases,
distributors buy cards in bulk and resell them to store owners.
In the midst of it all there are plenty of consumers who have
run into problems such as buying bogus calling cards.
Here are a few tips that you
should consider before you buy the next calling card that promises
you good rates.
- Beware of hidden
costs and short-term expiration dates.
- Watch out for connection charges
- Lookout hidden activation fees
- Avoid cards that debit minutes even when
you don’t connect
- Be cautious of maintenance charges
- Stay away from toll free access numbers that
are always busy or provide customer service that never gets
The most important thing
in using prepaid calling cards is to be better informed as you
sift your way through the maze of cards.