After losing my cell phone, I made a series of calls from Verizon payphones using my credit card, in the Dallas/Ft. Worth and LAX airports.
The first two, which were from the Dallas airport to my lost phone, were about 5 seconds each, as I hung up the moment I got voicemail (I was hoping someone would answer the calls and return my phone.) The posted rate on the payphone for credit card calls was $0.25/min, minimum 4 minutes, so I was expecting each of these calls to be charged at a _ridiculous_ $1, which I lived with because I was fairly desperate to get my phone back.
Each call, less than five seconds long, was actually billed at $9.61.
I then called my mother, also from the Dallas airport, to let her know that I had lost my phone. This call lasted probably two or three minutes and was billed at $19. (At the posted $0.25/min rate, I would have had to talk for 76 minutes. Not only am I certain I didn't stand for 76 minutes next to a payphone, I don't think I could have made my connecting flight if I had!!)
When I got to Los Angeles, I called her again to let her know I had arrived. This call was maybe 3 minutes, and was billed $4.30.
In Los Angeles I also made a number of unsuccessful attempts to call my mother, one of which involved an operator telling me my credit card was not valid. While no additional charges have posted to my card other than those detailed above, my bank's website tells me I have 'pending' charges: two $5 charges which appear to correspond to unsuccessful call attempts, and one $5 charge for "OPERATOR SERVICE C", presumably corresponding to the operator who told me that my card was not valid. (How ironic.)
The FCC's website (http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/PhoneWise.html) makes it clear that it's illegal for providers to bill for unanswered calls.
When I fly back I'm going to take photographs of the rates posted on the two payphones I used in LAX. (I won't be returning through Dallas, unfortunately.) Of course, even _had_ these rates been posted in fine print, I would still consider them a scam. But I'm certain they were not, because I'm very careful about these things. In any case I have no intention of paying the charges. We'll see what the chargebacks do to my credit report.