You should know that the practice of adding unauthorized charges to your phone bill known as “cramming” is illegal. It doesn’t matter whether you are using a cell phone or a land line phone, anonymous third parties have been tacking unwanted charges onto users’ phone bills under obscure descriptions and names like Extra Services, Voicemail Services or Other Fees, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says it has plans to step up and get more aggressive in enforcing the existing rules against the shady practice.
Even though the FCC has attempted to stop the practice by making it a crime punishable by fines and jail time, cramming is all too common these days and often very hard to detect because the charges may only represent a few dollars a month and often go unnoticed. The practice usually starts with a third party adding charges to your phone bill without your permission for services you never ordered or intended to pay for. In some cases it is a service that was offered and declined, but you got charged for anyway. The end result is the same though, phone bill cramming is something that you never chose to pay for at all and ultimately amounts to outright theft.
However, it’s hard to prosecute someone when the victim is not even aware there was a crime committed and the FCC estimates that only about 5% of phone users charged for crammed services ever become aware they are being ripped off. There are a few ways you can protect yourself though. Always read your entire phone bill to spot any strange additions that you did not authorize. One thing you can do to reduce cramming is not charging any “extra” services to your phone and wireless bills like making charitable donations via text messages, subscribing to weekly horoscopes or and buying ring-tone services. This will make it easier to spot any charges that you didn’t authorize. If you must use paid phone services, try to keep track of what was actually authorized and when it is charged to your bill. Fake add-on charges are harder to detect when they are buried in the same phone bill with a bunch of other charges. Phone users who do not utilize paid services at all can ask their service carriers for an all-inclusive block of any third-party charges on your bill. Some phone service carriers also offer a third carrier freeze that will prevent third parties from changing the features and settings of your normal long-distance service to add fees.
If you do find a suspicious or unwanted charge on your bill that you did not authorize, always give the company a call and ask to have the charges removed and discontinued immediately. If the source of the unwanted charges is evasive or impossible to get in touch with, you then have the option of disputing the charges with your own phone company. When speaking with suspicious companies on the phone, be careful what you say and never agree to anything unless you are sure you completely understand the terms of any agreement s you make. If all else fails, you always have the option of making a direct complaint to the FCC to report a company that is adding unwanted or unauthorized charges to your phone bill.