Smart Buying

Beware Bogus Charges on Your Mobile-Phone Bill

Take these steps to protect yourself from mobile cramming.

John Breyault is vice-president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud at the National Consumers League in Washington, D.C.

Mobile cramming refers to any unauthorized charge that appears on your bill. The fraud was initially associated with landline phones and is migrating to wireless phones. Cramming occurs when a third party signs you up for a service that you don’t know you’re paying for. Maybe you were asked to enter your number on a Web site to access a joke of the day, for example, or a horoscope. This is the first part of a “double opt in.” Then you might get a text message saying something like “reply STOP if you don’t want this.” Considering it spam, you delete it. As a result, you get signed up for these recurring charges, typically about $10 a month. Because the charges are buried in multipage phone bills, consumers don’t notice and might get charged repeatedly over the course of many months.

What is mobile cramming, and why is it a problem?

How can people protect themselves?

Treat your cell-phone number as you would cash or a credit card. Don’t just give it out. If you’re asked to enter a number to access information online that you can find free elsewhere, it could be a scam.

What should people look for on their bills?

These charges can be labeled practically anything. Carriers do a fair job of breaking out their fees, so look for additional services or miscellaneous charges that are not associated with your regular service.

If you find illegitimate charges on your bill, what should you do?

Complain to the carrier and ask it to block third-party billing. Let the regulatory agencies know. If you report the problem via our online complaint form at www.fraud.org, we’ll share that information with more than 90 law-enforcement and consumer-protection agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.

What about cramming on credit card bills? Does the same advice apply?

Again, it’s important for consumers to regularly review their credit and debit card bills to make sure they’re not getting hit with fraudulent charges. Report a suspicious charge to your credit card company or bank as soon as possible; consumers aren’t usually charged for fraudulent use of their cards if they dispute it promptly. With mobile cramming, though, carriers are under no legal obligation to waive the fees or pay for fraud that occurs over their system.

Most Popular

Planning to Sell Your Home in Retirement? Downsize Costs Along With Space
Budgeting

Planning to Sell Your Home in Retirement? Downsize Costs Along With Space

In this hot real estate market, consider the costs of buying and selling a house along with the expenses associated with your new digs.
November 13, 2020
What Biden Will Do: 24 Policy Plays to Expect From the Next Administration
Politics

What Biden Will Do: 24 Policy Plays to Expect From the Next Administration

The Kiplinger Letter forecasts President-Elect Joe Biden’s biggest priorities -- and the likelihood of progress on them.
November 19, 2020
The 13 Best Healthcare Stocks to Buy for 2021
Kiplinger's Investing Outlook

The 13 Best Healthcare Stocks to Buy for 2021

Most of the best healthcare stocks for 2021 will have some sort of ties to COVID, whether it's producing a vaccine or cure, or benefiting from the vir…
November 20, 2020

Recommended

2020 Tech Gift Guide: The 10 Best Values + The 10 Best, Period
Smart Buying

2020 Tech Gift Guide: The 10 Best Values + The 10 Best, Period

From laptops to loudspeakers to, yes, shoes. Check out the latest gee-whiz to make an impression during gift-giving season.
November 29, 2020
19 Best Costco Kirkland Signature Products to Buy for the Holidays
spending

19 Best Costco Kirkland Signature Products to Buy for the Holidays

From Costco Kirkland Signature Nuts and other holiday snacks to Costco Kirkland Signature fruitcakes and gift sets, there are a ton of holiday bargain…
November 24, 2020
17 People You Should Tip for the Holidays
spending

17 People You Should Tip for the Holidays

The holiday season is prime time to give back. So who gets a holiday tip this year – and how much?
November 6, 2020
Which Purchases Are Worth the Splurge?
spending

Which Purchases Are Worth the Splurge?

Sometimes spending a little more on quality ultimately saves you money by saving you time, improving your health or just making you happier. The trick…
November 5, 2020