Costly Phantom Calls

Bernadino Román, a 70-year-old gent from Zubia (Granada) frequently suffers from insomnia, which is quite common in somebody his age, and like most with this tendency, he is a late-night/early morning TV spectator, when the growing number of TV channels offer little more than tarot card reading, porn, the odd film and mind- numbing televised competitions.

One morning he was watching such a competition when the young lady asked the TV watchers to answer a simple question – and simple it was: name an animal with five letters, beginning with ‘C’ and ending in ’A.’

As money for most pensioners is always tight, the promised 100-euro prize was too tempting, so he tried the number, but after half an hour of a continual ‘engaged’ tone he gave up.

To say that he was both shocked and dismayed to receive a telephone bill for nearly 700 euros for having made 348 calls to that number between 2.28am and 5.50am is an understatement, of course. He had only made one call without ever managing to speak to anybody, but he paid up and then contacted the provincial consumer complaints department. Thanks to their intervention, the telephone company returned the money.

His advice is don’t even watch this type of programme, much less phone them, but many do and will.

The scam behind these numbers is a deal between the TV programme and the telephone company and they split the profits. Just the connection fee for the 905 lines costs you 1.6 euros and then the cost ticks up between every three and six seconds, but in Bernadino’s case, he was still being charged even after he had hung up, with every second ticking away until the call clocked up 659 euros.

Yet, if a TV competition gives away 100 euros for guessing the word ‘cabra’ it is because it stands to make a lot, lot more through the suckers that phone in.

If you can’t sleep, then read the instruction manual for your latest mobile telephone in Korean… if it doesn’t actually send you to sleep, the ensuing brain damage will render you unconscious anyway.

(News: Zubia, Granada city, Andalucia)

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