Phone Bill Scams

A new form of an old scam is rearing its ugly head. It's called cramming. Consumer Reports says it could be happening right under your nose and costing you money.

It works like this-unscrupulous third parties charge fees to your phone bill for services you never authorized. And it's tough to find out who's responsible.

John Arwe first noticed a suspicious charge on his Verizon phone bill last December, and then two more charges in January.

Arwe says, "It's easy to miss. I mean you're talking about eight or maybe 15 bucks out of 150 a month."

These charges were from companies independent of Verizon who were listed on the bill as "other providers."

Kim Kleman of Consumer Reports says, "Companies other than your phone company are allowed to put charges on your phone bill for things like voicemail service or a directory listing. The trouble is charges you didn't authorize can be slipped on your bill. It's called cramming and there a plenty of victims."

The Federal Trade Commission had more than 3,000 complaints of cramming last year.

Kleman says, "A big problem, with so many separate companies involved in the billing, is it's tough to get any of them to take responsibility for unauthorized charges."

John spent more than 20 hours trying to get his money back. Finally Verizon agreed to credit his account, pending its investigation.

Kleman says, "You can protect yourself against cramming before it happens. Ask your phone company to put a cramming block on your account. That will immediately stop other companies from placing charges on your bill."

And go over your bill...as John does...with a fine-toothed comb, and if you spot an unauthorized charge, demand a refund from your phone company.

Consumer Reports says if you find you have unauthorized charges on your phone bill, besides calling the phone company and demanding a refund, report your complaint to the Federal Trade Commission at ftccomplaintassistant.gov.


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