If you have ever received your phone bill, and upon reviewing it, noticed unexplained charges for services that you did not authorize or never used, it is likely that you have been crammed. Cramming is a common telephone billing scam by dishonest companies that charge customers for services they do not want, and did not authorize.
Charges may be small, and they can appear as though they are fees, often leading a customer to believe it is a normal part of their bill. The most common amount for a cramming charge is $9.99, though some may be larger, usually up to $24.95.
How Does Cramming Occur?
Typical deceptive practices that dishonest companies may use include the following:
- International Calls: Adult entertainment services will commonly tell customers to call a phone number that sounds unusual. What happens, is the customer dials the number, which turns into an international phone call, and the adult company rakes in money for the time the customer spends on the line.
- 800 Number Calls: Psychic lines, adult dating lines, and adult entertainment services will often answer with a pre-recorded message, prompting the customer to state their name and approve the service. Without speaking to a person, the customer is automatically enrolled in the service and charged.
- “Free Minute” Deals: Advertisements that claim to offer customers a “free” block of time to sample the service, will place customers on hold, which is deducted from their free minutes.
What Should I Do If I Have Been Crammed?
If you have been crammed, contact your phone carrier and tell them to shut-off third-party billing. The company should be able to tell you more about the charge, and you should be able to dispute it. You should then file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.
You can also file a complaint with your state Attorney General’s office, or the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Even if you have received a refund for unauthorized charges, you should still file a complaint.
To prevent future cramming, avoid entering your mobile phone number on unsecured websites. If you receive an unsolicited text message, it could be a sign of a scam. Check your phone bill frequently, and make sure your phone carrier blocked third-party charges.
Are there Federal & State Protections Against Cramming?
The FTC, FCC, and state Attorney Generals from 40 states have taken a strong stance against cramming, with steep penalties. For instance, in recent years, the FCC fined three carries $11 million for using deceptive sales practices.
Another cramming schemer was ordered to surrender more than $1.2 million in assets to the FTC. Protecting the consumer has become top priority for the FTC, as well as the crackdown on illegal activity.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Cramming Problem?
If you have been crammed, then you should immediately contact your phone carrier and file a claim with the FTC and FCC. If your carrier refuses to alter the charges and the FTC/FCC do not give you any recourse, then an experienced defective products lawyer can help. Your attorney will be able advise you of your rights, and provide guidance on the steps you should take to protect yourself.
However, cramming and other similar scams can be common and your carrier may have a protocol in place for when it happens. It’s important that you contact your carrier and file a complaint, then wait for responses from both, before you contact a lawyer for help. As a lawyer will not be able to help you until you’ve exhausted the other options.