Chances are you have a mobile phone – according to a Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project survey, almost 90 percent of us do. And like most of us, you may not pour over every line on your monthly phone bill to understand what you are really paying for. Too bad, because mobile cramming – adding charges to mobile bills that people didn’t authorize or know about – is an illegal practice – and it has become practically epidemic, according to the FTC.
The consumer protection agency is trying to change that landscape, using enforcement, consumer education, and policy discussions. Today, the FTC issued a report with five key recommendations for industry stakeholders that could protect all of us mobile phone users from mobile cramming. Read it here – but in the meantime, here’s what you can do to protect yourself:
Read your phone bill line by line, every month. One way you might detect bogus cramming charges is to get into the habit of taking the time to read your statement online, or the one that comes in the mail.
Regardless if you are a new or existing customer, ask your carrier to block third- party charges. The third-party blocking service is often offered free of charge. You just have to speak up.
Call you carrier and demand a refund for charges you didn’t know about or authorize. Be persistent when you complain to your carrier about the charges, and know that some carriers have a 60-day period for refund requests. Even if you’ve detected a years’ worth of fraudulent charges, the phone carrier may offer to refund only a part of it.
File a complaint with the FTC and let us know what’s happening. If you suspect you’ve been a victim of mobile cramming, call your mobile carrier first to complain, then fill out our complaint form online, or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.
By Cristina Miranda, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC