Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) May 10, 2013
The leading consumer advisory platform, Scambook, is advising the public on how to lower their monthly phone bills by recognizing and disputing mystery charges, currently on the rise. These small, unauthorized charges may appear as one-time fees or monthly subscriptions added to phone bills under regular-sounding phone terms. This is part of scheme termed “cramming”.
“Many consumers are unaware that such scams take place, so they may not be on the lookout for these unauthorized charges,” says Kase Chong, Scambook’s Director of Marketing. “But by raising awareness and encouraging users to examine their monthly phone bill, they catch the illicit charge and dispute it with their mobile phone carrier.”
FINE PRINT AND OUTRIGHT SCAMS: HOW PHONE BILLS GET CRAMMED
Two types of cramming are currently hitting mobile phone users; cramming committed by real companies practicing shady business tactics, and cramming committed by outright scammers.
A third party can cram a phone bill when extra services are purchased or apps are downloaded to a smartphone. Users opt in, but the company is deceptive about the nature of the charges. Additional fees or subscription charges may be associated with purchases, but these are buried deep in the fine print or disguised in heavy legal jargon.
Scammers, on the other hand, can find sneaky ways to cram even when users do not opt in to their services. They may trick consumers with “free” downloads for cell phone items like wallpaper or ringtones, acquire phone numbers from a black market affiliate list, or even blast out spam messages and charging users who reply “STOP.”
Both types of cramming may sneak onto phone bills with generic names such as Minimum Use Fee, Activation Fee, Voice Mail or Member Fee. The most devious schemes may also keep their charges as low as $2 or $3 a month, hoping consumers will overlook the charges.
TAKE CONTROL OF PHONE BILLS
The easiest way to protect phone bills from cramming is to review them monthly, line by line, to become familiar with regular monthly charges and an estimated total amount. Most bills itemize each charge, so if an unknown product or service is listed, or the bill seems a little high, consumers can call their service provider to ask about it.
The charge will likely be listed as something that sounds like a regular charge. Therefore, the FTC advises consumers to keep an eye open for the following kinds of charges:
1. Charges for long-distance calls not made by the caller
2. Charges from companies the caller has never heard of
3. Charges associated with unfamiliar area codes
4. Membership or subscription fees
If an unfamiliar charge is discovered, a call should be made to the service provider right away to dispute it.
PREVENT FUTURE PHONE BILL CRAMMING
Mobile phone service providers allow charges from third parties, potentially placing all consumers at risk of cramming charges. The following steps can help prevent future phone bill cramming:
1. Avoid entering phone numbers as part of contest entries. Many contests are created for malicious affiliate marketing programs to steal phone numbers to sell to scammers. If insisting on entering contests that require a phone number, sign up for Google Voice to get an alternate forwarding number.
2. Watch out for “toll free” numbers. Be aware that many “toll free” entertainment hotlines may transfer users to a paid 900 line or automatically enroll them in a monthly membership. Listen carefully to all the rules stated when a call is made. It’s recommended to get transferred to a customer service operator or to consult the hotline’s website for full terms of service.
3. Always read the fine print. Do not download any apps or join subscription services without reading the fine print very carefully. Shady companies may cram bills by advertising something as “free” when it’s actually a free trial. By downloading the app, users opt into monthly charges without realizing it.
4. Call cell phone providers. Consumers’ phone carriers may have options to block third-party charges, apps, collect calls, and 900 numbers. Call customer service to find out how to be protected from unwanted charges.
5. Be careful when sharing a phone. If friends or family members play games on your smartphone, make sure they don’t click on any in-game advertisements or download apps without permission. This can open the door for cramming charges.
Scambook is an online complaint resolution platform dedicated to obtaining justice for victims of fraud with unprecedented speed and accuracy. By building communities and providing resources on the latest scams, Scambook arms consumers with the up-to-date information they need to stay on top of emerging schemes. Since its inception, Scambook has resolved over $10 million in reported consumer damages. For more information, visit scambook.com.