Recently, we've been hearing a lot about the practice of cell phone cramming. This practice is dishonest, adding small charges to the bill — usually in the hopes that you won't notice them. The charges include deceptive fees that might not have been properly disclosed to you, or fees for services that you didn't actually receive.
You might think that you are unlikely to be a victim of what amounts to little more than a scam, but the FCC recently revealed that as many as 20 million people are victims of cell phone cramming each year, and the Senate Commerce Committee estimated that $2 billion a year might be overpaid by consumers due to cramming.
Spotting Cramming Fees
One of the reasons it's so hard to realize that you are a victim of cramming is due to the way the charges appear on your bill. Usually, the charges are small and seemingly unobtrusive. These fees might be labeled as “service” or fall into the “other” category. You might only be charged $4 or $5 at a time. If you spend $4 a month, that adds up to $48 a year. It doesn't seem like much, but that $48 could be used for something else. Plus, over time, $48 a year adds up to quite a bit of money.
For the most part, the only way that you can avoid paying these charges is to carefully watch your phone bill, whether it's a cell phone or a land line. Look through your bill carefully each month to determine what you are paying for. If you don't recognize a charge, or if you want more clarification on what “other” charges might be, you should call your carrier. In the future, understanding your bill should be easier, since the FCC is in the process of enacting new regulations that would require greater transparency on the part of service providers.
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Getting Cramming Charges Reversed
If you are being charged for services you didn't receive, or didn't authorize, you can call your service provider and try to get them reversed. In most cases, if the fee is, in fact, erroneous, the service provider will apologize and remove the charge, possibly claiming that it was a mistake. However, you might have to keep checking your bill to make sure that the charges don't reappear month after month.
Another thing you have to be aware of is that you might actually have signed up for the charges without knowing. Review your service contract to find out what, exactly, you can expect to be charged for. In some cases, you might not have adequately read the fine print, and you might have legal charges to pay for.
In some cases, your cramming charges are the result of third-party service providers. You might have to speak with the third-party about having your charges removed. This can be more difficult than having your phone service provider remove the charges — especially since you might have signed up for some text message service, or opted in to some subscription without fully understanding what you were doing. It's important to be careful about what you sign up for, and what services you take advantage of.
In the end, whether the charge is due to an attempt to cram your bill full of charges, or some other reason, you should understand everything that is on the statement, and do your best to avoid charges that seem unfair. If the charge is the result of something you unwittingly signed up for, ask to unsubscribe so that you no longer have it on your bill.