Cramming is the name for putting unauthorized third party charges on to a consumer’s telephone bill without the knowledge or approval of the consumer. This has long been a problem with landline phones and recently has become a major problem with cellular service. There are many ways that these unauthorized charges make their way to a victim’s phone, sometimes, consumers actually unknowingly sign up for premium texting services that may be for things such as flirting tips, horoscopes or celebrity gossip. Whatever the source of the charges, they are fraudulent and typically cost about $9.99 per month and continue to appear for months without end. This week the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed legal action against mobile carrier T-Mobile alleging that it earned hundreds of millions of dollars by knowingly participating in cramming of their customers’ accounts since 2009. One particular problem with cramming in mobile accounts is that the bills can be so long that, according to the FTC, customers would not readily be able to identify unauthorized charges on their bills which can sometimes be as long as fifty pages and when found may not readily indicate what they are for. The FTC gave the example of one unauthorized charge designated as “8888906150BrnStorm23918.” T-Mobile strongly denies the charges and is fighting the legal action.
Regardless of whether the specific legal charges against T-Mobile are true or not, cramming is a large problem. The first line of defense is to make sure that whenever you click on a link or enter a contest or ever provide personal information to anyone that you read the fine print to make sure that you have not unwittingly signed up for such a service. The second thing to do is to make sure that you carefully review your landline and mobile phone bills each month and question any charges that are not clear to you or which you believe you did not authorize.