In May 19th’s Scam of the day I first told you about settlements reached by The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) with wireless service providers Sprint and Verizon Wireless regarding allegations by the CFPB that both companies were guilty of cramming. For years I have been warning you about the dangers of cramming. Cramming is the name of the practice of putting unauthorized third party charges on a consumer’s telephone bill without the knowledge or approval of the consumer. This has long been a problem with landline phones and in recent years 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. Other times, unscrupulous merchants merely tricked consumers into providing their cell phone numbers to which these merchants added the charges without providing anything in return. The charges range from a single monthly charge of up to $14.99 to regular, continuous monthly charges of $9.99 per month. Many consumers did not even notice these charges in their bills, which often were not clearly designated. Both Sprint and Verizon were aware of these charges and received between 30% and 40% of the revenue generated by these illegal charges.
Pursuant to the terms of the settlements, Sprint and Verizon is refunding 120 million dollars to affected customers as well as paying 38 million dollars in federal and state fines. However, there is a deadline of December 31, 2015 for applying for a refund so anyone who may have been affected by Sprint and Verizon Wireless cramming charges since July 1, 2010 and who has not yet applied for a refund should do so immediately.
First and foremost, even if you are not a Sprint or Verizon customer, everyone should closely review their cellphone bill each month to make sure that you understand every charge that appears. If anything is not clear to you, you should contact your cellphone service provider for an explanation.
If you are a Verizon customer who has been victimized by cramming, you can submit a claim for a refund by going to http://www.cfpbsettlementverizon.com/ or by calling (888)-726-7063. If you are a Sprint customer who has been victimized by cramming, you can submit a claim for a refund by going to https://www.sprintrefundpsms.com/Home.aspx or call (877) 389-8787.