Watch Out For Cramming On Your Phone Bill

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.

Hello Consumerist! I’m writing in because I just had an experience with something called “cramming” and I thought your readers should be informed. I handle my parents telephone bills because of all of the shady stuff these telephone companies do. While reading this months bill I notice an extra charge placed by a company called Enhanced Services Billing Inc. (I’ll call them ESBI for short) for 13.27. I’ve had lots of trouble with telephone support in the past and I really didn’t want to call up the customer service number just yet so I started searching on the net for anything regarding this company and it’s services.

What I found disgusts me. First I stumbled across this blog ““. That blog post was very informative and introduced me to the term “Cramming”. The FCC has a good description of what cramming is at this web page “

“Cramming” is the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges on your telephone bill. Crammers rely on confusing telephone bills in an attempt to trick consumers into paying for services they did not authorize or receive, or that cost more than the consumer was led to believe.

ESBI was the one pushing charges onto my account for another company called Total Enhanced Services Billing Inc. Confused? Let me try and explain. ESBI is a middleman, they have contact with your local phone service provider (in our case it would be AT&T). In my case, Total Enhanced Services Billing Inc got a purchase request for whatever its service is (I think this is their service they forwarded that request to ESBI which forwarded the request to AT&T and charged it to our bill.

Cramming happens without consent from you, if your phone company gets a request to add charges to your bill from a company like “Enhanced Services Billing Inc.” then they will add the charges no problem. With such shady tactics I thought that getting the charges off of the bill might be a real hassle, but I called the number on my bill and was transfered a few times to a representative from ESBI. The woman asked for my phone number and the exact date the charges were placed on the bill, I tell her and she informs me that she is going to transfer me to the company that actually placed the charge, Total Enhanced Services. I’m transfered over and tell her about the situation, she gives me a name that the order was placed under, “Chris”. I deny that we ever ordered such a service and that I do not know anybody named Chris, she quickly offers to remove the service, credit our bill, and gives me a confirmation number.

Why would they be so quick to resolve the issue? If they resolve the issue quickly there is less of a chance that you, the consumer, would complain or write to the FCC or whoever else. Bad publicity means more people checking their bills for these phony charges which means less revenue for them. I advise everyone to check your bill and make sure everything is in order, we can’t let these sneaky snakes get away with stuff like this.

“Fight Bogus Charge Cramming With Account Freeze Power”
“Watch Out For Bogus Charges On Your Phone Bill”
(Photo: Getty)