by CUB and wireless research firm Validas
indicates that the number of potentially fraudulent "cramming" charges has doubled on Illinois cellphone bills, sparking concern that scam artists are now focusing on wireless customers with the passage of landmark landline protections.
CUB's "Stop Cramming Center" explains the "cramming" scam and how to spot and stop it on your bills.
Use CUB's Action Network
to send a message to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) encouraging tougher rules against cramming.
At a minimum, CUB would like all wireless companies to be required to allow customers the option of blocking third-party charges from their cellphone bills.
What is cramming?
"Cramming" is when a third-party company—a company other than your cellphone carrier—slaps a charge on your wireless bill for a service you never ordered or received. Scam artists take advantage of complex cellphone bills to hide fradulent charges—usually less than $10 a month—hidden among a forest of other fees. Illinois recently passed landmark legislation
that cracks down on landline cramming, but wireless customers are still vulnerable to the scam. Federal regulators predict that the scam will continue to grow on mobile phones as they are more commonly used for payments.
How does cramming work?
Typical suspicious charges:
Scam artists use many different paths to your cellphone bills, including:
• A telemarketing call or a piece of junk mail.
• A Web site that offers a "free" coupon or other service or entry in a sweepstakes.
• "Malware," software that infects a phone.
• Extras, such as ringtones.
• An unkown text message announcing you have won a contest. Other typical scams invole "premium services" for horoscopes or trivia via text.
How do I prevent cramming?
• Scour your bill each month for suspicious charges.
• Register cellphone numbers with the federal government's Do Not Call list, at www.DoNotCall.gov
• Beware of online contests or sweepstakes that require filling out online forms. If a form is required, avoid the risky practice of providing your cellphone number.
• Ask your carrier if it offers free fraud protections, such as blocks on texts and data.
• Beware of unkown texts. Identify potentially fraudulent texts and get tips on how to handle them at www.SMSwatchdog.com
. There have been conflicting reports on how best to handle suspicious texts. Some people report not answering such texts led to a cramming charge on their bills, and others report that they responded "STOP" and that still led to a cramming charge. Unless you have specific information on how to handle a suspicious text, it's best not to answer it—but be particularly careful to read your bill to spot any cramming charges later.
If I spot a suspicious charge on my cellphone bill, what do I do?
• Call the cramming company to dispute the charge (see if the company's number is on the bill).
• Call the cell-phone company. Inform it that you're disputing the charge and you're only paying the undisputed part of your bill. Make sure you agree what that undisputed amount is, and record the time of the call and the full name of the person you talk to.
• File a complaint with the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov
Central Illinois (1-800-243-0618)
Southern Illinois (1-800-243-0607)
Northern Illinois (1-800-386-5438)
Where do I get tips to cut my cellphone bill?
Go to CUB's "Cell Phones" page
. Also, use online bill-cutting tools such as www.BillShrink.com