Phone bills can be confusing There are various services charges and taxes associated with using a phone number You may be tempted to ignore the fine print However, I suggest you check your phone bill carefully Circle any charges you don’t understand and call your phone company for an explanation You may be a victim of “cramming.”
What is cramming? According to the FCC: “Cramming is the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges on your telephone bill Crammers rely on confusing telephone bills in an attempt to trick consumers into paying for services they did not authorize or receive, or that cost more than the consumer was led to believe.”
Could cramming happen to you? Yes Here are two common examples:
1 You signed up for a new phone service because they offered a low monthly fee However, you weren’t told that common services, like texting or long distance, weren’t included in the fee and you’d be charge extra for each message.
2 You used your phone to donate money to the earthquake in Haiti They said it would be simple and the charge would appear on your phone It did But then you find a new recurring “membership” fee on your account after that donation That’s a classic example of “cramming.”
Here’s the bad news Unlike a credit card company, you cannot contact your phone provider and dispute the charge Typically, the phone company refuses to get involved and you are left to fight this on your own.
So what are you supposed to do? You can contact your phone company to request to block third party charges on your phone bill Once you do this, you can no longer authorize charges either, so texting donations is out It’s an all or nothing option
You should be aware of your bills and look at them closely for anything unauthorized and take appropriate action Do you remember the telephone days of Ma Bell and the breakup back in 1984? Before the breakup, there was only phone company and charges were easy to trace Shortly after the breakup, it was still easy to track your charges because you were billed on one statement regardless of how many companies you used Those days are over Today, you need to carefully review your phone statements to protect yourself against fraud.
For more information on cramming, visit the FCC at www2.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/cramming.html