Is your phone bill ripping you off?
How to spot and avoid 'cramming' charges on your phone bill.
This post comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.
Americans are paying more than $2 billion a year in unauthorized charges on their phone bills, an illegal practice called cramming, estimates a recent Senate Commerce Committee study. Post continues after video.
Charges can show up in the form of services you might legitimately use -- long-distance fees, for example, or a downloaded ringtone -- but what makes them cramming is that you haven't actually used the service or otherwise authorized the charge.
In fact, the Federal Communications Commission reports just 0.1% of consumers actually use the third-party services they're being billed for.
So what's making consumers pay up? Cramming isn't easy to spot. Charges are often small, and listed simply as a "service charge" or the even more vague "other fees."
"We're glad that the regulatory bodies are looking at this," says Linda Sherry, a spokeswoman for Consumer-Action, a consumer advocacy group. "It's completely bogus to bill people for things they didn't ask for." Phone bills are such a popular target because it's relatively easy for an unscrupulous company to bill something to your phone, versus obtaining your credit card number, she says.
Earlier this week, the FCC released new proposed rules that would require phone companies to clearly identify and list separately any third-party charges, in a bid to reduce cramming. Even so, it's up to consumers to avoid paying.
"The onus is on the consumer to look at the bill and make sure it's correct," Sherry says. "It's a huge drag."
Review your bill each month and call your carrier to question any charges you don't understand. Carriers will typically remove and reverse charges for you, she says, although in rare cases you may need to reach out to that third party.
The FCC says 82% of cramming charges still occur on landlines, so keep track of any long-distance or other expensive calls you make. On cellphone lines, carefully read the terms and conditions for any phone-related services you or a family member use. Sending one text message for, say, a special offer from a company may sign you up for a monthly subscription. Carriers may also allow you to block purchases on your phone entirely.
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VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
I recently spotted a $9.99 charge on my Verizon bill for 'data usage'. I never use the data feature & very rarely even text, so the charge really stuck out. When I looked to see the details of the 'data', there was no data usage shown !!
When I called Verizon, they stated a '3rd party' was sending people text msgs with some sort of offer, & if people didn't respond saying they weren't interested in the offer, their account would henceforth be charged $9.99/month !! This is outrageous !!
It used to be that if you wanted a service, you had to agree to it first before they could start charging you. Now, all too often, companies are allowed to give you something you did not
ask for and then charge you if you don't (after the fact) tell them you don't want it !! Why should a person have to opt out of something if they never opted in????!!
So a word to the wise—check your phone bills carefully—home and cell. Verizon put a block on my phone so this particular scam won't work, but I'm sure many others are unwittingly paying the fee.
These big phone companies are allowing this, which is criminal. If you or I decided to do something like that with our company invoices, they would send us to jail. But, not them, because they are political contributor's, and the rest is not rocket science. ATT was doing that on my cell bill, and I called them, getting a refund for over $200.00 but it was not easy. I had to threaten to send them to the FCC and FTC before it was finally resolved.
Now for the gig, and I know that I will get some ugly comments, but I think that all cell phone should be destroyed. I hate them; always have and always will. The cell companies pay anywhere from $10 to $30 for the phones and sell them to us for hundreds of dollars, and then fleece us on the phone bill. What's wrong with this scenario!!
What is with all these taxes and regulatory fees which are added to our phone bills? My phone plan costs $69.99, per month and every month after all the regulatory fees, the local, state, and federal taxes are added, my bill totals between $85.00 and $90.00. That is a ridiculous 22% to 24%, increase. And, our government states they don't have enough money?
One more thing and I know this is a little bit out there on the edge. Almost every day, in one way or another, I feel like I am being extorted from, rather it be big business or our government. Most people in this country are under the impression the mafia is almost non existent...Big Business along with our Government is the new Mafia! Oh, and don't even get me started about how our banks operate in this country. What happened to this country?
T- mobile defrauded my account for services and equipment I did NOT order. Cust.serv. was horrible and asked the same questions over and over. After being credited one month the same charges were on the bill the next month. I switched Service provider.
At&t . Not any better. One day I end a call and the phone beeps and is dead. Took it to a service store and the guy says the SIM card went bad. Replaced it for free but then connections were not happening. 3,4,7 tries to make a call connect. They were charging my account for these minutes as used when there was no connect. Paid to have early termination to avoid inevitable overcharges. Went with Consumer Cellular. New co. new account, new phone right? WRONG. ATT owns Con. Cell. and the problem with no connect and charges for unused minutes I had with ATT followed me to Con. CEll. Used 250 mins to make 10 one minute calls.
These co. are criminal and should be tried and jailed to the full extent of the law. But is seems white collar crime goes without penalties...Banking, Insurance, Mortgage, etc. frauds are never punished...
Makes me sick.
Here's a better idea never give out ANY personal info to ANYONE and if these cramming fees are illegal why aren't there any criminal charges being brought against these companies. Seems like a cover-up from those that are supposed to stop this kind of crap, oh excuse me this kind of cramming. Washington sits back and lets this continue and does nothing.
Here's and idea...........................................................
In every election WE THE PEOPLE should vote OUT of office every incumbent until those the WE elect to office start doing what they are elected to do. If we take control of who is in office we can change how Washington does business. This is something that should be shared with everyone that we know and someday it will be a government FOR THE PEOPLE BY THE PEOPLE OF THE PEOPLE once again.
Pass it along
than one day when i was talking to them about other charges (i was suddenly being charged for night time minutes even though my contract included unlimited free night time minutes), the guy i was talking to started listing all the services i had on my phone. two of them, i had never agreed to and had never used either. when i pointed that out and said i wanted my money back for all the months i had been paying for them, the guy's response was "why were you paying it than?". when i told him that i just paid my bill every month without thoroughly checking it because i had assumed that i could trust them to not bill me for things i hadn't asked for, he suddenly got very quiet, than very quickly told me they would be crediting my account as of right than and for how much.
....thank you. i thought it was just something i had done and now i know i should call and have it removed! very sneaky these companies are...bring back Ma Bell!!!!!
I wish I could post this without my name on here but this isn't a one-sided issue.
Most people don't fully read their statements whether it's for their telecommunications services or not. They only read the first page with the dollar amount on it. Most bills are in 3 parts and the most detailed is the lower third of the bill. Nearly all invoices/bills are written this way. It is the customer's responsibility to read the whole bill, especially the detailed part.
When it comes to downloads on cell phones that have charges connected with them, you are asked twice if you ok the download. I would get tons of calls from customers saying that they didn't download something when in fact they did, or the kids did, or someone else with their phone did. Depending on the amount of the downloads, some of them could have been waived. Sometimes these charges were in the hundreds of dollars.
There are third party companies out there that once you download one of their downloads, they sign you up for a monthly subscription. By law now, they have to tell you that if you agree to this, you are signing up for a subscription service...but they practically mumble this on their tv commercials and the print is extremely small so that you can't really see it. Jamster is notorious for doing this. I still shudder when I hear their company name.
Every company up sells products. It's not limited to telecommunications companies. Ever notice when you're in the drive-thru window of a fast food place, the person on the other end says, "would you be interested in our special of the day?" or "do you want fries with that?" Do you know that there's some manager or supervisor breathing down that person's neck telling them that they have to sell so many numbers of that product or they may lose their job?
As a consumer, I hate up selling. As an employee, I hate up selling but it's a part of my job and it's the part of my job that I don't care for much. When I'm a consumer and the product isn't working, fix what isn't working instead of selling me additional things to pad my bill even higher.
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