Study says "cramming" scam could be costing wireless customers - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Study says "cramming" scam could be costing wireless customers

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A study released by the Citizens Utility Board shows that "cramming" could be costing Illinois wireless customers millions each year.

Cramming is done by third-party businesses that put fraudulent charges on phone bills for products and services customers never ordered or received. A new state law protects land line bills from most third-party charges, but that law does not effect wireless customers.

Crammers get access to consumer's cell phone bills through text messages that offer ringtone downloads or say the consumer has won a prize. Websites offering free services or sweepstakes could also give crammers access to bills. Consumers who respond, and even some who do not, then see things like "premium texting," "download charge," and "data" on their bills.

According to a study released by CUB and using data from wireless industry research firm Validas, cramming charges averaged about $3.76 per month in Illinois. If those costs are applied to all of the state's 12.3 million cell phone subscribers, it would lead to costs of up to $1.4 million a year.

CUB recommends consumers take the following steps to avoid cramming charges:

  • Scan monthly bills for suspicious charges
  • Protect your phone number by registering it on the Do Not Call list (www.donotcall.gov) and being aware of online contests or "free" offers that make you fill out a form or give your cell phone number
  • Ask your carrier if they offer free fraud protections like blocks on texts and data
  • Beware of questionable texts (www.smswatchdog.com can be helpful in identifying fraudulent messages)

Those who see a suspicious charge should take the following steps:

  • Call the cramming company and dispute the charge (look to see if the company's number is on the bill)
  • Call your cell phone company and tell them you are disputing the charge and will only pay the undisputed part of your bill. Be sure to agree on the undisputed amount and record the time of the call and the person you talk you.
  • File a complaint with the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov, or 1-800-386-5438 in northern Illinois). Be sure to keep a copy of the complaint for yourself and send another to the cramming company.

The Citizen's Utility Board is a non-profit utility watchdog organization created by the Illinois Legislature.

 

 

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