Your Information Destination National Consumer Protection Week 2011

Take a close look at your phone bill for mysterious charges

May 20th, 2011 by Cheryl

Do you examine your phone bill closely enough each month to recognize any new charges? Would you notice a $2 or $3 one-time service charge? Or an obscure, recurring monthly charge?

Scammers hope you don’t.  That’s why they invented cramming – the practice of sneaking charges onto your phone bill for services you didn’t order or use.  There’s no one type of cramming charge, and the practice isn’t limited to landlines.  Charges could be crammed in:

  • · long distance services
  • · subscriptions for internet-related services like web-hosting
  • · access to restricted sites
  • · entertainment services with a 900 area code
  • · collect calls
  • · club memberships

And regardless of the type of charge, cramming costs consumers and businesses hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Federal Trade Commission recently hosted a cramming forum to explore possible solutions to the problem of unauthorized third-party billing on telephone bills. The forum focused on how the government, businesses, and organizations can work together to reduce cramming through business practices, law enforcement, and possible legislation.  Providing consumers the option to block third-party enhanced services was one of several ideas to emerge from the forum as a potential solution. 

To spot and stop cramming on your phone bill, the FTC suggests reading your bill carefully to get familiar with it. Watch for changes month-to-month and look for charges for services you haven’t ordered or calls you haven’t made. If your telephone bill usually is the same but suddenly goes up, take notice.

For more information, including tips on how to reduce your risk of being crammed, see: Cramming: Mystery Phone Charges. And if you’re not sure about a charge on your bill, ask your phone company. If you suspect you’ve been crammed, file a complaint with the FTC.

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