This blog is the fourth in series on digital and communications privacy and security.  Earlier, I addressed 1) anti-virus protections, 2) online nuisances and 3) the risks of online financial scams.  In this blog, I will discuss how some are gaining unauthorized access to your communications accounts.  Indeed, some privacy and security issues have been around for a long time, but still require our vigilance.

Here they are:

  • Cramming: Cramming occurs when unauthorized charges appear on consumers’ wireless or home phone bills.   Regulators make it relatively easy for unaffiliated vendors to force carriers to collect charges for them.  Sometimes vendors erroneously identify who has incurred charges for collection.   If you find unwarranted charges on your carrier’s bill, call the carrier to have them removed.  If you don’t get satisfaction, file a complaint with the state public utility commission or federal regulator (FCC).
  • Slamming involves changes to customers’ phone service (carrier or service package) without their consent.  If you detect this has happened, call your carrier to have it reversed and reported to the regulators.
  • Cellphone & Android hacks.    In at least one instance, newspaper reporters apparently collaborated with hackers to break into cellphone message systems so they could get advance details on newsworthy stories.  This phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World centered on celebrities, politicians and athletes.  More than two dozen people are suing New York-based News Corp., which has apologized and offered to settle some of the cases after journalists linked to the newspaper were arrested as part of a police probe.  In March 2011, Google removed 21 apps from the Android market after it was alerted that the apps contained malicious software that collects user data.

Look for my next blog, which will address the potential problems of social websites.

 Alan Daley is a retired businessman living in Florida.  He follows public policy from the consumer’s perspective.