Phone Bill Cram Scam: Avoiding Unauthorized Charges

Phone Bill Cram Scam: Avoiding Unauthorized Charges

Update: “FTC Files Its First Case Against Mobile Phone Cramming

Is your phone bill creeping up higher and higher in cost per month? If so, you could be the victim of a telephone billing scam know as cramming, which has bilked millions of dollars out of phone customers for years.

Unauthorized charges on consumers’ phone bills, whether a land line or a wireless phone, are often referred to as “cramming“, and this scam has been featured more and more in the news recently. Cramming itself is nothing new, and at one point was one of the leading profit points for the mob. It’s often hard to find cramming right away because the added charges are usually low, and most people don’t read their phone bills closely enough to see it.

Examples of unauthorized charges on your phone bill include: club memberships, ringtones, voice mail, “service fees”, web hosting, “minimum usage fees”, entertainment calls, and anything else that sounds generic or unfamiliar. Here are some tips to avoid, or at least get rid of, phone cramming:

  • Read your monthly statement:Look for unusual and unauthorized charges. Read your phone bill carefully, because the fees associated with cramming are often small (somewhere in the $2-$5 range isn’t unusual) and easy to miss.
  • Block third party charges:Your phone carrier should have the option to block all third-party charges from your phone.
  • Don’t back down:If you suspect a false charge, call the service provider and have them explain the charge. If you still don’t recall authorizing it, get them to stop billing. You also shouldn’t need to pay them. Your phone service cannot be disconnected for not paying the third-party portion of your phone bill.

A good way to avoid cramming is to steer clear of where the crammers are looking for victims. Stay away from entering contests by phone, joining clubs or memberships to non-mainstream groups over the phone, and definitely stay away from 900-numbers and entertainment calls like psychic hotlines and joke/humor services.

If you find charges on your bill that you didn’t ask for or approve, call your phone company to find out how they got there and how to get rid of them. The FCC recommends that you call the company doing the billing and ask them to explain the charges. And if you can’t get any resolution with your phone company, try filing a complaint with the FTC.

Image courtesy of Damian Gadal

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About Jon

Jon has worked in the tech industry since the pre-Bubble dotcom days and still has a 1200 Baud modem somewhere in his garage. When he's not advocating the use of strong passwords and being smart about social media, he's working on finding new ways to convince his wife that bacon is a vegetable which should be eaten with every meal.