Cramming is defined as the addition of charges to a subscriber's telephone bill for services which were neither ordered nor desired by the client, or for fees for calls or services that were not properly disclosed to the consumer. These charges are often assessed by third-party suppliers of data and communication service that phone companies are required, by law, to allow the third-party to place on the bill.
“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 Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Monitor your monthly statements closely because even if you are very protective of your personal information, cramming can still strike.”
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. Calling a psychic hotline or entering a sweepstakes can also lead to cramming. Unfortunately, in some cases, the victim may just be an unlucky, random target.
The 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 sharing any personal information online, always research the business with your BBB at www.bbb.org
- 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 at www.bbb.org
For more advice on managing personal finances and protecting your wallet, visit www.bbb.org.