The Pitfalls of Fat-Finger Dialing

Are you absent-minded? A poor speller? Do you have big hands? These traits could cost you. Watch out when you're placing collect calls or other operator-assisted calls. If you accidentally dial a number that's one digit off from the number you meant to dial, your call may still go through.

Some clever companies have snatched up the rights to numbers that are a digit or two off from those of popular services. Say you're trying to call 1-800-COLLECT, but instead you dial 1-800-COLECCT. Instead of reaching Ma Bell, you could reach a company you've never heard of. That company could charge you prices two to three times more than average.

Do Your Homework

Slow down a little when you dial. Make sure you hit each number only once.

Listen. If the company identifies itself with a name you've never heard or that sounds "off," use caution.

If you're calling from a pay phone — people still use them, especially at airports! — the company is required to identify itself and give you a rate quote upon request.

Don't accept collect calls until you know which company you're dealing with.

Where to Complain

The Federal Communications Commission wants consumers to help it identify fat-finger dialing scams. That's one call you want to make.

You can file a complaint with the FCC by e-mail (, the Internet (, telephone 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice, 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY or mail (Federal Communications Commission, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division, 445 12th St. SW, Washington, D.C. 20554)