Consumers and small business owners alike are finding inexplicable charges on their phone bills, many of which are small sums but clearly add up over time. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has provided a fact sheet for consumers on “Cramming: Mystery Phone Charges,” detailing what you should do if you suspect you’ve been victimized and how to reduce your chances of being taken advantage of in the future.
What is Cramming?
Cramming is “when a company adds a charge to your phone bill for a service you didn’t order, agree to, or use.” Often, these charges “may sound like fees you do owe. That makes them tough to pick out, especially if your phone bill varies month to month.” The FTC fact sheet gives two examples of being crammed: a charge for web hosting when you don’t even have a website and international call charges when all your contacts are stateside.
What Can You Do to Prevent Cramming?
Read Your Phone Bill. The first thing you can do to prevent the injury caused by cramming is to actually read your phone bill. The FTC recommends paying close attention to each line on your bill, noting even the slightest of changes from month to month. “There’s no one type of cramming charge. Some charges appear just once; others are ‘subscription’ charges that show up every month. Keep an eye out for generic-sounding services and fees like Min. Use Fee, Activation, Member Fee, Voice Mail, or Web Hosting . . . .” Watch out for calls you didn’t make, area codes you don’t know, and services you didn’t order.
The Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, as part of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), provides a sample phone bill online to help you understand the intricacies of a detailed statement, explaining what various charges are.
Be Cautious When Giving out Personal Information. The FTC admits we as consumers can’t always prevent crammers from taking action, but we can be wise about what opportunities we provide them with. Avoid entering contests and joining “free” programs when personal information is unduly required by a company you don’t know you can trust.
What Should You Do if You Suspect Cramming?
If you suspect cramming, the FTC recommends taking three basic actions: (1) Ask your phone company about the charge or charges in question, (2) file a complaint and (3) notify the FTC. You can call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or visit the organization’s official site at ftc.gov.
“Charges on Your Phone Bill.” FCC.gov.
“Cramming: Mystery Phone Charges.” FTC.gov.
“Consumer Reports Looks at the Cramming that Could Cost You Money.” 9News.