While the FCC has recently enacted rule changes that make it more difficult for predatory third-party businesses to cram unwanted and unauthorized charges on consumers’ landline phone bills, it is still in the process of considering what to do about bill-cramming for wireless customers. For what it’s worth, the folks at the Federal Trade Commission have chimed in with their suggestion: Wireless providers should be required to give customers the option to block all third-party charges from their bills. [More]
While recent action by the FCC created rules intended to curb the practice of “cramming” unauthorized third-party charges on consumers’ landline phone bills, it did nothing to stop the same from happening for wireless customers. Today, Senator Jay Rockefeller IV introduced legislation that would end the practice and direct the FCC to create rules covering wireless customers. [More]
Crammers are ripping off taxpayers across the country by getting fake charges put on the phone bills of government agencies. [More]
While the folks in Washington, D.C., are proposing regulations to prevent bizarre, and often illegal, third-party charges from being buried on your phone bill, officials in a nearby Maryland county are actually investigating Verizon’s billing practices following complaints that the phone company has been charging customers for services they didn’t request. [More]
Last month, FCC chair Julius Genachowski said the commission was preparing to take on the problem of landline bill cramming, the practice of placing mysterious third-party charges for everything from long-distance to yoga classes on your landline bill. Earlier today, the FCC announced more details of its proposed plan. [More]
Eight months after the FCC settled with Verizon Wireless for $25 million over mystery charges on cell phone bills, the Commission’s Chairman Julius Genachowski says he’s ready to take on the bigger problem of so-called “cramming” on landline bills. [More]
A new Craigslist scam is targeting your cellphone. Sellers report getting a message from a “serious buyer” who is busy “at work” and “can’t contact” them now. The fictional buyer says they “use a website that can save information” and asks the seller to “leave your phone number there” so they can call you after they “get home to arrange a meeting.” Based on one users’ experience, the site, which has already been pulled, then starts cramming $9.95/month monthly charges onto any cellphone number that gets entered. Here is one of the scam emails: [More]
Inc21 supposedly sells web hosting and other Internet-related services, but the FTC says that in reality it contracted with offshore telemarketers who helped it cram charges onto unsuspecting customers’ phone bills, earning $19 million over the past five years. Customers who complained about the charges said they were either never contacted in the first place, were promised a free trial, were told that the telemarketer was just verifying business information, or explicitly refused Inc21′s offer and were charged anyway. [More]
Ralph discovered a mysterious $18 charge on his most recent AT&T bill. A little research turned up OSP Communications, which is apparently a front for a fraudulent biller that has repeatedly hit AT&T customers with a cramming fraud. Read Ralph’s email below, and be sure to check your own phone bill for charges like this each month.
Do you want to know if AT&T boosts your rates? Maybe you want to pay only for services you ordered or explicitly authorized. Tough! AT&T’s new 2,500 page “guidebook” is the latest spawn of California’s failing experiment with deregulation, one that is in “direct violation” of the law, according to the Public Utilities Commission.
Thanks to AT&T settling a recent class-action, the era of third-party scammers cramming consumers with fraudulent subscriptions to ringtone, hookup text and other stupid content services may soon be over. AT&T Customers can claim refunds for wrongful charges from up to 3 of their bills between 1/1/04 and 5/30/08. The lawyers will get $4.3 million. AT&T will now require subscriptions to 3rd party-services with recurring fees to be confirmed by responding to a text message. 3rd party services will also have to send a monthly reminder with unsubscribe info. The firm has filed similar suits against Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. Claim forms and more info at thirdpartycontentrefund.com.
AT&T Mobility has agreed to offer refunds to customers who were charged for third-party services like ringtones, although if you were frequently a victim of this you’ll quickly exhaust your refund quota: “Customers will able to claim refunds for spurious charges that appeared on up to three of their monthly bills between Jan. 1, 2004, and May 30, 2008.” AT&T should be sending out a notification to its customers “soon,” but you can already download a refund request.
ArsTechnica writer Nate Anderson was a recent “cramming” victim, and he wrote about his experience tracking down who was behind it. Cramming is a scam where third-party groups tell your phone company to bill you for “services,” services you never signed up for, and the phone company happily obliges, taking a cut of the fee. The phone company does no verification and all the scammer needs is your phone number. In Nate’s case, he was signed up for three different voicemail services and email-forwarding service, three at $14.95 per month, and one at $12.95, doubling his telephone bill. Snooping around, he found the companies behind it were ILD and ESBI, and scores of cramming complaints about these “companies” littered the internet. Luckily he was able to get refunds without difficulty (crammers often make it easy to cancel so you don’t go complaining to any law enforcement bodies) only providing just as much information as these con-artists used to flimflam him in the first place: his phone number. So how can you fight a crammer? [More]
Josh discovered a mysterious $13 fee on his parents’ phone bill, and as he tracked down the source of the bogus charge, he learned a lot about cramming. The FCC describes it as “the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges on your telephone bill” by third party companies, who bank on you being too confused/distracted/annoyed by your hard-to-read bill to notice.
Under the current system, telephone companies allow 3rd party companies to submit charges which the phone company then includes in your bill, with no verification other than a list of names and numbers. The phone company keeps a cut and blithely bills away. Scammers have figured this out and will sometimes submit bogus charges, disguised under vague names.
This is why it’s always a good idea to scan your phone bill and look for suspicious charges. If you see a charge you don’t understand, Google it. [More]