What are Cramming Charges?

Have you ever heard of something called a “cramming charge”? The FCC defines it as unauthorized charges on your phone bill. This can range from strange charges by a third-party to a misleading service by your phone company.

Cramming charges can look like a small problem, but these little fees can cost you hundreds of dollars every year. In fact, the FCC estimates that 15 to 20 million American households have unauthorized cramming charges on their phone bill. On average, the FCC says, only one out of 20 people knows that he or she is the victim of a cramming scam.

With cramming charges ranging from 1.99 to 19.99 per month, it’s time to take a second look at your telephone bill.

How do crammers get away with it? Cramming charges tend to look like official fees from your phone company. They are often labeled as “service fee,” “service plan,” “voicemail,” “other fees,” and “membership plan.” Because of the confusing nature of most telephone bills, it is difficult to pick out the real charges from the false ones. Additionally, most cramming charges are just a few dollars, and overlooked when paying your monthly bill.

Victims of cramming schemes come from all walks of life. According to the FCC, a doctor in Texas was charged $435.54 in cramming fees. A woman in St. Louis was a victim of cramming for 25 months. Another woman in North Carolina complained to her phone company about cramming charges, and was told that she authorized the charges online, despite the fact that she didn’t own a computer. Anyone who owns a phone is at risk of paying for cramming charges.

What do you do if you’ve been crammed? Call the third-party company that placed the charges and demand a bill adjustment. Call your phone company, as well, and ask about the procedure for removing unauthorized charges from your bill. If either the third-party company or your phone provider will not remove the charges, then ask BillGuard for help, and file a complaint with the FCC, FTC, or your state’s public service commission for telephone services.

Follow these tips to protect yourself from cramming charges.

Tip #1. Study your monthly telephone bill. Do you recognize the names of all the companies listed and the services they charged? Do any charges seem misplaced? Are there services you did not request? Are the rates consistent with what you were told by your phone company? If not, you may be the victim of cramming.

Tip #2. Phone bills are notorious for being difficult to understand. Circle any vague charges and call the phone company. Ask them to explain the charges. If you don’t remember authorizing the service, then you might have cramming charges on your bill.

Tip #3. Pay attention to small fees. One of the ways crammers escape notice is by only charging a few dollars to your account.

Tip #4. If you use a family or business plan with a long and detailed bill, keep a record of any phone services that you use. This includes 411 calls, app downloads, and 900 numbers. It’s easier to double check your bill when you have a detailed account.

Tip #5. Read all terms and conditions statements before signing up for a phone plan. Providers can be misleading in the hopes of getting a quick sale, and you can end up paying more than you intend for phone service.

BillGuard can help you fight unwanted charges. Sign up now.