Is Your Phone Bill Being Crammed?
If you haven't been reading your phone bill line by line, it's time to start. Phone bill cramming - the insertion of unauthorized charges - is a rapidly growing form of fraud. Here's how to detect bogus charges on your phone bill, and what you can do about it...
Phone Bill Cramming
According to a study conducted by the Federal Communications Commission, the practice known as cramming is on the rise. And the majority of victims don't even realize they are being scammed.
Only one in 20 victims of cramming noticed the bogus charge(s) on their phone bill, the study found. Perhaps that's because phone bills are often many pages long and crammed line items are notoriously vague. Customers tend to just pay their bills without reviewing them in detail. The result can be hundreds of dollars per year in fraudulent charges.
Unlike identity theft, cramming is scandalously easy. The perpetrator only needs your phone number, which may be had from a directory. One woman was charged for 25 months of long distance service that she never ordered. When she protested, the company sent her an "authorization form" that showed the wrong name, mailing address, email address, and birth date. Only her phone number was correct.
Crammers also con victims into providing their phone numbers. You may get a call offering a "free service" with a request for your "daytime phone number" to arrange delivery. An online survey may request a phone number in case "followup" is needed. When you sign up for a "free trial" you may not notice the fine print that says your phone number will be billed for a subscription if you don't cancel soon enough.
Crammed charges typically range between $1.99 and $19.99. They may be described simply as "service fee," "membership," "call plan," or something equally vague, despite FCC rules requiring clear, plain-English disclosures.
How to Fight Bogus Charges
If you discover an unfamiliar charge on your phone bill, its description should include a phone number at which you can contact the vendor. Call and demand proof that you authorized the charges, as well as an accounting of all charges that have been made since the alleged authorization. If the "authorization" is bogus, demand that the charges be refunded.
While speaking to them, mention the FCC frequently; that regulatory agency can fine a vendor who racks up too many cramming complaints. In many cases, crammers will refund money (after much wrangling) to avoid exposure. Of course, you should still report any cramming incident on the FCC's Web site (http://www.fcc.gov/guides/how-file-complaint) or you can call (888) 225-5322.
If the vendor won't refund your money, contact your phone company. Phone companies make money from third-party cramming, but they'd often rather keep a bread-and-butter customer.
You can ask your phone company to block all third-party billing on your phone bill. But that may prevent you from buying services you actually want.
As a general rule, do not provide your phone number to anyone you have no reason to trust. Examine your phone bill for bogus charges every month. If you get burned by a crammer, persistence and loud complaints are your best hope of a refund.
Have you found evidence of cramming on YOUR phone bill? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 29 Jun 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Is Your Phone Bill Being Crammed? (Posted: 29 Jun 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved