Hiding in plain sight?

Could your mobile carrier be hiding third-party charges on your phone bill that you never authorized? The FTC has alleged that T-Mobile has done just that.

The agency says that T-Mobile charged consumers not only for regular phone services, but also for third party content – including monthly subscriptions for ringtones, wallpaper, horoscope texts, flirting tips, and celebrity gossip – that consumers neither knew about nor agreed to.   

According to the FTC, here’s how it happened: On the first page of the bill, T-Mobile deceptively lumped third-party charges under a general line item that also included charges for their services like texting. The obscure breakouts of each charge were on the pages toward the end of the bill.  

More surprising? The company continued to charge consumers, pocketing up to 40 percent of those third-party charges, even after some consumers caught on, complaints piled up, and industry auditors put T-Mobile on notice that the charges were unauthorized. 

Here’s how to reduce the chances of paying charges crammed onto your bill without your knowledge or permission:

  • Read your mobile phone bill each month – line by line, and page by page. Don’t ignore the billing statement you get in the mail or through an automated online payment system. You should know your baseline monthly bill. Taking time to read every page of your statements can help you detect potentially fraudulent charges, keep surprise charges to a minimum, and save you money.
  • Consider a block on third-party charges. Many phone carriers already offer third-party blocking service for free. You just have to ask.
  • Ask your mobile phone carrier for its policy on refunds for fraudulent charges. Some carriers have a 60-day period for refund requests, and many have a policy of partial refunds for fraudulent charges you detect – no matter how long the cramming charges have occurred.
  • If you have a prepaid phone plan, check that you’re not losing pre-paid minutes to pay for unauthorized third-party charges. Stay on top of how many calling minutes you have, and make sure that minutes don’t go missing due to deductions unrelated to your regular phone calls. Check your accounts online or call the number your carrier gives you for account access.

If you suspect you’ve been a victim of cramming, contact your phone carrier first about the charges, then file a complaint with the FTC.

Tagged with: cell phone, fraud, mobile, scam
Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Comments

This is full of great content that most don't know about it is wonderful that your able to let us in on the newest information. thanks for all you do to help so many

Um, cell phone companies have been billing text services this way since at least 2003 when I started working for AT&T. People often subscribe to text services without even realizing it. Back in the day, a lot of these texting services were shady and sort of tricked people into subscribing, then those of us that worked in Customer Service had to deal with the backlash. This is not even close to new. I think you all are about a decade late on this.

Thank you for bringing this to light. My mother is 81 and she checks everything. She was being charged $2.50 for 411 calls.She obviously was not making those calls(she didn't even know what 411 was). How does this happen? We need to analyze everything!

I've once had a call from a random phone number and when I answered it was 411. When I got my monthly statement I noticed that I had a charge for calling 411 which I never done

My bill is $39.99 monthly but there is a charge for taxes and fees. What are fees???

I have been having major problems with my bill with t mobile for three years the customer service is terrible and the bill is never correct and they add extra charges and change your plan with oout you knowing charhing for phones not in use taxing when there is not even a phone number too I advise you check into T-Mobile even more I have been complaining for the past 3 years and get nothing they do not know how to add or subtract they gave me a 10.00 credit and add it instead of subtract they are terrible please look into company a lot more and read customers compaints to them listen to the recordings on the phone and get this accomplished cause I am getting no where

Jersey1270- I feel your pain. I have been with T-Mobile since 2000. They used to have wonderful customer service. In the past 18 months I have been on the phone with them about my coverage and billing EVERY SINGLE MONTH! I finally wrote a letter requesting early termination of my contract so I can switch to another carrier. Can't wait, they granted it and I will be switching to ATT next week!

so is there a class action and do we get refunded?

i got tracfone prepay are there anyway they can deduct minutes from my account without me using the phone

This happened with me when I had T Mobile's contract plan. I just use their flex plan now.

I know thy do this!

Has anyone ever checked into AT&T for the same thing? I have a home phone and internet through them and I swear they're doing the same thing to my home phone bill! I'm getting charged three different times for 911 and a bunch of other charges too that I don't even understand what they're for! I get the unlimited local and long distance calls, suppose to be one set price, yet every month my bill is a different amount. I mean there were times it would be a $10 difference from one month to the next! Now it just keeps getting higher and now they're raising my internet bill too! At first it was suppose to be only $14.95 per month for the first year and then go to it's reg. price of $24.95 per month after that, which it did for a year and now they're raising it again!! Now they have me paying $36.00 per month and said that the $24.95 was a special price for the second year! They NEVER said anything about that when I signed up or at anytime during the first two years! Here is a copy of what all they charge me for on my home phone bill. Please tell me if the charges at the bottom make sense to you! . . . . . . . . . . Monthly Service - Jun 16 thru Jul 15
Combined Communications Svcs 39.00
ALLDISTANCE
byAT&T Michigan
Call PlanUnlimited
Caller Identification
Calling NameDisplay
ThreeWay Calling
Automatic Callback
Call Forwarding
Selective Call Screening
CallWaiting
Speed Calling
CallWaiting ID
Unlmtd NWClg Plus 1
byAT&T LongDistance
FederalAccess Charge 5.39
Total Monthly Service 44.39
Surcharges andOther Fees
9-1-1 Emergency System
Billing for more than one city/counties .24
Emergency 9-1-1OperationalAssessment
Billing for more than one city/counties 1.24
Michigan State E911 .19
FederalUniversal Service Fee 1.72
MI StateAccess Fund .19
Carrier Cost Recovery Fee (LongDist) 1.99
Total Surcharges andOther Fees 5.57
Taxes
State at 6% 2.89
Total Plans and Services 52.85. . . . . . . . I don't know call me crazy, but I just don't get how it can be so different every month and how they can keep raising the price of my internet without any notice and then try to tell me that's what it was suppose to be all along! Any suggestion?

Was a T-Mobile consumers over a year ago, Had them for over 6 years when I lived in Kansas. Now I live in Washington.

This is a non-issue. I've credited customers who didn't even know they had it on the bill. For eleven years they have been crediting customers back, and in some cases further back than 60 days. This is not "hidden" either, because the way bills are printed there are only a few pages worth and very easy to read. You're showing a bill that is a reprint or lengthy due to the customer requesting detailed billing. But these charges coming up right before Sprint makes its offer for T-Mobile? Yeah, something's fishy, but it's with the FTC.

Correct-non issue. I read my bills and if I saw those charges I would call and get an explanation and a credit. I got the block early on. FTC should not go after T-Mobile. They need to go after the people that advertise FREE RING TONES, etc. Consumers order them up and aren't able to see the fine print, I know I tried on a couple of the commercials and they are small print and fly by so fast who can read it. I call BS on FTC

Watch AT&T. I purchased Apps from Google Play, AT&T also charged me $85.00 for Third Party Apps. I disputed, I don't have to pay for an App twice. They may have credited my account ~ It's not the principle. Yes, I switched!!

I purchased Apps through the Play Store on my credit card. AT&T charged me $85.00. I disputed. They credited my account ~ It's not the principle!! I switched.

TMobile well well known for hitting the poor with nothing short of threats, and usuary. They also bill bogus charges. Usually to poor people who do not have the money to hire legal counsel. They could not provide me with service, but demanded I pay the early termination fees.
they are nothing short of being Pirates.

They did the same thing to me....their coverage in AZ is terrible. After I complained to the FCC, they called and waived the early termination fee.

For the past 21 months I have been lied to and ripped off by T-Mobile. Every month was an issue and I'd go around and around with them regarding bogus charges. The Bill break down was a joke. I mean what are "non-communication" fees? Now they're doing away with long bills. They say That's not what we want. That we just want the bottom line. I'm sure that's what they want so we won't complain. That'll work. Right...

I believe cox does this too!

This is ridiculous

T-Mobile has hundreds of thousands of customers how are they supposed to contact everyone of them personally?? Lets be realistic, if a customer calls in with an unauthorized third party charge we stop the app from further charging the customer, block the app and the request a refund on the customer's behalf from the third party provider. Just the fact that we physically submit a request for refund to the third party tells me T-Mobile isn't "stealing" your money. It's sensationalized crap like this that makes good headlines. I've looked at hundreds of bills over the last 6 months and have seen none of these "premium SMS charges" - its not a scam, its not a conspiracy, its nothing more than a Third Party Provider using T-Mobile and other carriers to overcharge customers that activate the Third Party providers services. There has not been "hundreds" of complaints about this - but there probably will be now thanks to garbage like this being spewed by the FTC. There are NOT hidden charges in the bills, I explain them to customers all the time - third party charges are clearly identified. Page one shows hidden charges?? Get your information straight...oh that's right this is the internet and people can say anything they want without facts. Put up a screen shot of an "actual" bill to show the Summary then draw a little arrow to the Usage Charges like you just discovered some HUGE hidden conspiracy. Be responsible and show page 3 or 4 of the bill that breaks down all the usage charges per mobile number. Then each mobile number has a page number by it which tells you where the charges for that mobile number begins. Your article panders to people who don't take the time to read their bills then "suddenly" think they've been getting ripped off for years. If I saw a $10 increase in any of my bills I'd investigate, not let it go on for several months, then suddenly read a sensationalist article, and think "Oh my I'm getting ripped off too!!!" John Legere is 100% correct in his statement - we go out of our way to treat customers well and make sure they're satisfied. With no contract how can we not? Its idiotic garbage like this that will cause people to think every one is out to get them. IF ANYONE ACTUALLY TAKES THE TIME TO READ THIS COMMENT BELIEVE AN ACTUAL PERSON WHO HANDLES BILL EXPLANATIONS DAILY - THERE ARE NO HIDDEN CHARGES AND NO CONSPIRACY BY T-MOBILE TO "STEAL" HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS FROM THEIR CUSTOMERS!!!! If you ever come across a charge that can't be explained, and you encounter a phone rep that can't explain the charges - then you got a bad rep who probably doesn't know how to read the billing system. Every charge, every credit, every reason is accounted for and notated by the system. Everything is tracked, memos are created and billed charges are shown. We have a Third Party App tool that allows us to block third party apps on accounts and request refunds for customers. Sorry no conspiracy here. Nice try. More than likely the FTC is trying to ruin T-Mobile's customer base (which has grown more than the other carriers) because of some hidden agenda. When you're the cheapest, most honest carrier in the field - you wear a big target on your back. One last thing, since T-Mobile offers NO CONTRACT plans, why would they "hide" charges from their customers and try to rip them off?!?!? Wouldn't the customer logically just cancel their contract when they eventually uncovered these hidden charges?? Yes. But wait with AT&T, Sprint or Verizon you can't just cancel your contract - you'd have to pay a $250-$300 early termination fee....hmmmmm seems like T-Mobile would be honest and up front with you and the others would not. We have more to lose. Think about it..

I have so many questions about this. shocking. Where can I read more? What is cramming? What is third party charges. and I can request that third party charges be blocked? and why would T-Mobile permit them appearing on my bill?

Cramming happens when a company adds a charge to your phone bill for a service you didn’t order or use. The article Mystery Phone Charges provides more information. You can also check out the blog How to Beat a Mobile Cramming Scam.

I use to work for a 3rd party vendor that supplied customer service for T-Mobile. We got alot of complaints about T-Mobiles people telling customers that a credit would be applied and never being applied and no system notes mentioning it. If you get a rep that has a id # like 1-#### that is a outside rep. and often can't find any info of what a actual T-Mobile employee might have told a customer b/c it is not there. But we also had alot of issue of the subscription service being ordered by the kids on the plans with out parents knowing about it. Then they call and ask about the 10.00 a month charge for this or that. Check what your kids are doing on top of what the phone company is. The adds for these subscription services are deceptive and can actually cost you 10.00 a day instead of a month. You do need to read every line of the bill and read every part for every number on the account. And yes there are times that a actual mistake is made by the computer. But more than likely in some cases it is someone on the account adding some of those extra charges.

You don't have to live like this.

I'm on Ting and I pay about $30 a month. My aunt is on RepublicWireless and she pays about $25 a month. S

I switched from T-Mobile to Republic Wireless. I'm paying $12 per month and completely satisfied. You might not be, depending on your use and service.

THAT IS MESS UP !!

This is such a non-issue and I can't believe the FTC is singling out T-Mobile in a lawsuit. What about Verizon, Sprint and AT&T because I've seen that exact type of charge for years on customers' bills. It isn't illegal put there by the carrier. People can subscribe without even realizing it because the text alert people are shady and no one reads fine print.

One day I was taking an online quiz just for fun and at the end it said to get my results I needed to put in my mobile number and they would text it to me. I read the fine print and it plainly said that by giving my number I would be subscribing to their daily text alerts for $9.99 per month. Hell no I didn't give my number but people are stupid and do it all the time.

Also people can get subscribed when someone types in what they think is a fake number, not wanting to give their real number. There should be a mandatory opt-in where a text is sent to the customer's phone asking them to reply YES to opt-in otherwise they won't be subscribed.

If you want to go after someone, go after the companies that are creating these stupid, deceptive daily text services that no one really wants. It's not the carrier's fault that they are being told to charge a customer on their bill for something that was subscribed to. Regulate the cause of the problem and don't shoot the messenger. I wouldn't blame the carriers if they stopped allowing bill to account for any service other than theirs completely. What a headache! I hope T-Mobile wins.

Been with Verizon for 2 years and my monthly bill has the same amount every month. They offer very good service.

ihave had Verizon a long time and they do the same thing with text msg.this is not new

It's all about being Upfront ...
With Me
It's a Need for clear and concise Comprehension to the plan -
And an itinerary of expected dues and date changes

I paid so many bills in my 2 months

I'm one of the affected customers of tmobile.....shortly after I added a 3rd line to my account I started to notice a t/p charge on this new line....I asked my gfs little brother if he downloaded any apps or in app purchases and he denied....I called tmobile and asked them about this charge...and they told me they couldn't see it on their side...so I told them I would take a screenshot and email it to them....then they told me I couldn't do that...then I told her that I would give her permission to go onto my mytmobile page to see herself and she refused....then she told me not to worry about it.....this was around the time the galaxy s4 came out....I kept seeing the charge every month and would call in but they acted like I was crazy.....after reading about this on the 1st of july I was furious and tried to view my bills only to see that tmobile cleverly changed their websites and the way to view your bills...I was furious and called tmobile only to be told by Tony s I'd number 1049579 that those acquisitions were bogus and was EXTREMELY RUDE...then they told me if I couldn't show physical proof that I wouldn't be refunded...then they turned around and told me they don't keep phone bills longer than a year....wow how coincidental how everything is no longer available.....I cannot wait until they get to the bottom of this and I am even willing to testify in federal court under oath

I continue to be astonished with the behaviors of those individuals who manipulate innocent citizens... AS WELL AS AN ENTIRE NATION... for their own personal deceptive and sinful gain! It is disheartening to know that certain individuals (or groups) would use their GOD given skills for such cruel and malicious use! I pray that they are forgiven for creating an environment filled with distress and distrust. If they put forth just as much effort towards cultivating a spirit of honesty, hard work and positive morals and ethics, the world would be a better place, thus decreasing the senseless wasted time and opportunities of good hard working American Citizens.

I have been with t- mobile since.they were voicestream that was about 15 or so years ago, i like them, but its.true my bill is.differet every month. I have.had many third.party charges onmy bill. I say that their. Costomer reps. Are about the worst anywhere. I have.been told to.hold on and they never come back. Ive asked for.a.supervisor because i.was.getting nowhere with the.rep. she.was an idiot, andthen told by her that there were no.supervisors there. She was scared. That was only one time. I have.had many many calls with.them.that.i have gotten off.the phone after an hour and hadmy blood pressure so.high it was rediculus. Then i will get the most wonderful person from the US that is.just as helpful as can be. So ichoose to.stick.with them even though i have been.so.angry i wanted to tell them whereto , go. But all in all i like tmobile. So.yes.what is.being said.might be true. But truthfully the only ime ivehad charges that i didnt do was from a third party . So to be fair i.dont think it is.Tmobile's fault when it is.a third party that is.causing the.charges on my bill. So even.after all these years i will stick with them. Oh and they have always given me a refund. And.they told me i could put a.block on any $9.99 monthly charges from.being added.to.my bill for ever and.it.was.free of.charge. now i.will say thishappened bcause i had a.good cust. Rep. .

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