When was the last time you looked at your cell phone bill to make sure everything was in check? No, not just glanced at the balance due before paying it but really looked at it? When was the last time you analyzed each line item, traced the charge back to your request for the service and verified that you were being charged the right amount? If you're shaking your head, thinking that level of attention to detail is crazy, then it's possible that you haven't heard of the deceptive practice of cell phone charging called cramming.

What is Cell Phone Cramming?
When your cell phone bill has a charge that was not authorized by you, is more expensive than the company said it would be when you agreed to the service, or includes extra charges that are the result of misleading or deceiving you, it's called cramming. Cell phone cramming is often a successful way to bill unsuspecting people out of money, because few consumers bother to analyze their statements and double check that they are being charged the correct amount for services they may have agreed to months ago.

What Makes Cell Phone Cramming Dangerous?
Cramming isn't a new scam either. For more than a decade, cramming has occurred on regular landline phone bills. Cell phones offer an entirely new opportunity to cram. With special text message services sending out horoscopes, the purchase of ring tones and the proliferation of apps, cell phone bills have the ability to be much more complex than landline bills are. This creates many more opportunities for cram charges.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as many as 20 million cell phone customers are crammed annually. Only one victim out of 20 ever discovers that he or she has been crammed. A lot of money is being stolen by crammers, making this an extremely serious problem. In fact, cell phone cramming is estimated to cost consumers a total of $2 billion each year.

Getting a Handle on the Cram
In order to ensure they aren't giving their money away to crammers, consumers are advised to review their cell phone bill every month. The FCC recommends that every charge, including $1 to $3 charges, be reviewed for accuracy since crammers often stick with small numbers they feel will go unnoticed or unchallenged. Verifying the service provider of the charge is the first step in testing the accuracy of your bill, but you should go on to confirm that the amount you're being charged from an authorized vendor is the amount that you expected.

To make the process easier, consumers should keep a list of the services they've authorized and the amount they expect to be charged for that service. When you cancel an ongoing service, write down the date that you canceled it and your confirmation number or the name of the individual you spoke with to cancel it. Note the last date that you should be charged for the service. If you're charged again after that date, you can call with this information and possibly have your bill adjusted.

When It's Necessary to Take the Next Step
If you find that you've been crammed recently, look at past statements to see if you were crammed then as well. Call the company providing the service, explain the situation and ask for a credit. The FCC advises that you consider filing a complaint with both it and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if the company will not remove the charge. It also suggests that consumers notify their State Public Service Commission.

The Bottom Line
Your cell phone bill is just like every other purchase you make each month. If you were charged for extra items at the grocery store that didn't make it home with you, you'd complain and expect your money back. Your cell phone bill is no different. Make sure that you're monitoring your charges each month, and don't be afraid to ask questions if your bills look incorrect.

Photo Courtesy of alumroot

Related Articles
  1. Budgeting

    Trunk Club Review: Is It Worth It?

    Take a close look at one of the best-known online clothing services in the country, and determine whether it's a good fit for your style and budget.
  2. Budgeting

    HelloFresh Review: Is It Worth It?

    Discover one of the world's most successful meal subscription services, and learn more about how the service operates and what it costs.
  3. Budgeting

    Beer of the Month Subscription Review: Is It Worth It?

    Learn how you can get access to some of the best craft beers produced in the world, delivered right to your front door every month.
  4. Budgeting

    Just the Right Book Review: Is It Worth It?

    Take an in-depth look at Just the Right Book, a subscription service that delivers personalized book selections based on your reading history and preferences.
  5. Entrepreneurship

    ‘Happy Birthday to You’ Belongs to Everyone Now

    A class action lawsuit over the copyright to the iconic American song “Happy Birthday to You” ends by placing the ubiquitous ditty in the public domain.
  6. Investing News

    Who Does Cheap Oil Benefit? See This Stock (DG)

    Cheap oil won't benefit most companies, but this retailer might buck that trend.
  7. Budgeting

    The Honest Company Bundles Review: Are They Worth It?

    Learn more about The Honest Company and its bundle subscription services, which deliver discounted diapers, formula and other baby products to your doorstep.
  8. Budgeting

    Blue Apron Review: Is It Worth It?

    Read about one of the top meal-kit delivery services in the United States, and learn more about what it offers and how much it costs.
  9. Stock Analysis

    JCPenney's Path To Profitability (JCP)

    Learn about what J.C. Penney's management team has been doing to profitably grow its business as the company recovers from years of revenue declines.
  10. Stock Analysis

    3 Chip Makers Betting on the Drone Industry in 2016 (INTC, QCOM)

    Find out which of the big chip makers are betting heavily on a burgeoning consumer drone market that could be the next big wave in consumer electronics.
RELATED FAQS
  1. How does a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) affect my salary?

    Some companies build salary adjustments into their compensation structures to offset the effects of inflation on their employees. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Where can you buy NetSpend reload packs?

    You can only purchase NetSpend reload packs at Giant Eagle, Albertsons, Roundy's and Pathmark supermarkets. NetSpend cards ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Does consumer protection cover my debts?

    The most impactful consumer protection laws and regulations in the United States are overseen by the Federal Trade Commission ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What does marginal utility tell us about consumer choice?

    In microeconomics, utility represents a way to relate the amount of goods consumed to the amount of happiness or satisfaction ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are some common ways product differentiation is achieved?

    There are many ways to achieve product differentiation, some more common than others. Horizontal Differentiation Horizontal ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How does a bank determine what my discretionary income is when making a loan decision?

    Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>
Trading Center