Mystery Phone Charges

Cramming happens when a company adds a charge to your phone bill for a service you didn’t order or use. Cramming charges can be small, and they may sound like fees you do owe.

If you don’t recognize or understand a charge on your phone bill, ask your phone carrier about it. Your carrier should be able to tell you more about the charge, and your statement should tell you how to dispute errors on your bill. If you suspect you’ve been a victim of cramming, file a complaint with the FTC online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

About Phone Bill Cramming

Cramming happens when a company uses your mobile or landline phone bill like a credit card, and adds a charge for services like trivia, ringtones, daily horoscopes or love tips to your bill that you didn’t agree to or use. The most common dollar amount for a cramming charge is $9.99, a relatively small amount which is easy to overlook. Some charges sound like larger fees you do owe, making it tough to pick out the phony charges, especially if your mobile phone bill varies month to month.

Read Your Monthly Bill

Make it a habit to check all charges on your phone bill each month for products and services you haven’t ordered. Some charges may appear only once; others might be “subscription” charges that show up every month. Keep an eye out for generic-sounding services and fees like Min. Use Fee, Activation, Member Fee, or Subscription; as they may be services you haven’t ordered.

Check out each section of your mobile phone bill, but note that crammers tend to target some “hot spots.” Pay special attention to sections labeled “Miscellaneous,” and the “third-party” charge sections on your bill. Mobile phone carriers allow third-parties to place charges on your phone bill, so these type of charges can be from anyone other than your phone company.

Some mobile phone carriers send their customers short bills with few details, but may offer more detailed bills online or upon request. To check out a sample mobile phone bill with various charges explained, visit the Federal Communications Commission website.

If You Suspect Cramming

Don’t recognize or understand items or charges on your mobile phone bill? First, ask your phone carrier about it. Your carrier should be able to tell you more about the charge, and your statement should tell you how to dispute errors on your bill.

Then, take the final step in fighting a cramming charge: file a complaint. Even if you get a refund, if you suspect you’ve been a victim of cramming, file a complaint with the FTC online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

Reduce Your Risk of Cramming

Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do to prevent a crammer from adding fake charges to your phone bill. However, you can avoid giving would-be scammers the opportunity by keeping these tips in mind:

  • Don’t enter your mobile phone number on unsecured websites. If you do, it’s likely to be compromised.

  • Unsolicited text messages could be sign of a scam. A text message from someone you don’t know could be a signal that you might be signed up for a service you didn’t order or agree to. Your best line of defense? Check your phone bill regularly for mystery charges.

  • Ask your phone carrier about services it offers to block third-party charges. Mobile phone carriers allow third-parties to place charges on your phone bill. Many carriers offer this third-party blocking service for free.