Sneaky little charges are making their way onto telephone bills and can go unnoticed for months. Victims of so-called “cramming” often face a tough battle to stop being billed every month and start getting their money back. In order to fight cramming, Better Business Bureau recommends keeping a close eye on every bill and being extremely cautious when giving out personal information such as phone numbers.
“You might think that nothing bad can happen from giving out your telephone number, but you should guard those digits like you would a credit card or social security number,” said Fred T. Elsberry, Jr., President & CEO of the BBB Serving Metro Atlanta, Athens & Northeast Georgia. “Monitor your monthly statements closely because even if you are very protective of your personal information, cramming can still strike.”
Cramming is on the rise, according to the Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission during an interview with Herb Weisbaum, consumer reporter for MSNBC.com. Cramming can come from any number of sources. Some victims may have inadvertently signed up for a subscription service—such as for “free” ringtones or a daily joke or horoscopes--not realizing they’d be billed every month.
The Federal Trade Commission recently cracked down on one company that used telemarketers to convince people into signing up for “free” trial services. Calling a psychic hotline or entering a sweepstakes can also lead to cramming. Unfortunately, in some cases, the victim is just an unlucky random target.
BBB recommends taking the following five steps to fight cramming:
• Keep a close eye on monthly statements. Anyone can become a victim of cramming so monitoring you monthly bills is extremely important. The sooner you spot the charges, the sooner you can fight them.
• Know your rights. Contact your telephone provider to see if you can completely restrict third-party billing on your account.
• Know whom you can trust online. Before handing over any personal information online, always research the business with your BBB at http://www.bbb.org/us/Find-Business-Reviews/.
• Guard your personal information closely. Be wary when asked to provide personal information to sign up for a free trial or enter a sweepstakes. Always read the fine print on any offer so you understand how your personal information may be used.
• Know where to complain. If you are unable to resolve the issue either through your telephone provider or directly with the business, file a complaint with the FCC for charges related to telephone service and FTC for all other cramming charges on your phone bill. You can also file a complaint with BBB.
For more advice on managing personal finances and protecting your wallet, visit us online at http://www.bbb.org/us/consumer-tips-finance/.