The term "cramming" might be new to you, but it could serve you
well to familiarize yourself with the expression. Federal regulators coined
the term to refer to the practice of wireless providers sneaking erroneous
charges onto consumers' bills. The Federal Trade Commission has been
heading up an on-going investigation which has recently singled out T-Mobile
as another culprit.
How Cramming Works
In an attempt to slide fraudulent charges in without consumers noticing,
crammers repeatedly place small charges for phone services on your monthly
bill. There are several ways this can happen.
First, by responding to an unsolicited text message, you may elicit an
unwelcome subscription or service. Perhaps, unbeknownst to you, the fine
print of a giveaway or contest you entered using your phone number, granted
your permission to enlist you in a digital subscription of some sort.
The most brazen means of cramming occurs when a third-party places a charge
on your bill that you, in no way, authorized.
Regardless of how the charges occur, your wireless provider enables cramming
by allowing charges by third parties to be placed on your bill, which
are typically mutually beneficial to the third-party and your provider.
Cramming is not a new practice. As early as 2009, the primary carriers
all began providing, and billing customers for, the Premium SMS service
on behalf of content providers that were responsible for procuring customers'
authorizations. A few of the big carriers ceased that practice in 2013
as part of an industry-wide compromise on premium text messaging.
Cramming continues to be profitable for providers largely because government
regulators have not demanded carriers furnish their customers with less
complicated monthly statements.
Most recently T-Mobile has been accused of cramming its customers and making
it difficult for customers to uncover these bogus charges on their bills.
Unfortunately, they are not the first to engage in cramming-and they won’t
be the last.
How To Tell If You Have been Crammed
Examine your bill thoroughly. If you are unsure about charges for memberships,
subscriptions, activations, or member fees, contact your provider. The
FTC notes that $9.99 is the most recurrent dollar amount for a cramming
charge, although smaller amounts are also used because they are rarely
detected. Look for red flag words on your bill like “memberships”,
“calling plans” or “member fees”. Even buzz words
like “subscriptions” and “activation fees” are used.
If you suspect you have been a victim of cramming, call your provider and
request the unauthorized charges be removed and refunded. Additionally,
file a complaint with the FTC online, or by calling
Preventative Measures for Stopping Cramming
Before you are a victim of cramming, there are preventative ways you can
protect yourself. Ask your carrier to block all third-party services on
your phone plan. When you enter any contests or sweepstakes, do not use
your cellphone number. When you do shop for phone services, use a separate
credit card for purchases, and never enter your cellphone number on unsecured websites.
To prevent cramming, inspect your bill every month and contact your provider
immediately if you detect suspicious charges- even small ones. Also, don't
answer or respond to calls or texts from an area code you don't recognize-
they could be cramming attempts.
Call us at (215) 278-4449!
If you believe your wireless provider has placed unauthorized charges on
your monthly bill, or you would like further information concerning this
investigation, contact our consumer protection lawyers at Golomb &
Honik, P.C. today. We will review your claim to determine if you, too,
have been a victim of cramming.