Beware of Fraud in Prepaid Phone Card Services
by Nebi Alemu

Based 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 answered.

The most important thing in using prepaid calling cards is to be better informed as you sift your way through the maze of cards.

About Nebi Alemu
Nebi Alemu is an entrepreneur residing in Silicon Valley, California.