The cell phone bill surprise

Examine your cell phone bill closely to find and fix mystery charges.

The happiness of receiving a new cell phone can quickly be overshadowed by a large cell phone bill. Do you faithfully pay your bill and not question charges you don’t understand? You may be the victim of cramming. The Federal Trade Commission defines cramming as a charge added to your phone bill for a service you didn’t order or use.

Always review your monthly bill to look for services or products you haven’t ordered. The cramming amount that appears most often is $9.99. The most common terms affiliated with these fraudulent charges are min. use fee, activation, member fee or subscription. Closely examine the sections of the bill marked miscellaneous or third party, as these are the sections where the charges are most commonly listed. Remember, you can always request a detailed bill from your carrier if you receive a short bill with few details.

There are a few things that consumers can do to reduce their chances of being a victim of cramming. First, do not enter your cell phone number into unsecure websites. This action can make your number accessible to others on the internet. If you are not sure about the security of the website, then do not enter your number. Secondly, document unsolicited text messages that show up on your phone. The fact that you are receiving the messages can mean that you are already a cramming victim. Lastly, ask your phone carrier if they are able to block third parties from adding charges to your phone bill. Many providers will offer this service with no cost to you.

Consumers who don’t recognize or understand items or charges on their cell phone bills should, first, ask the phone carrier about it. The carrier should be able to explain the charge in more detail. The cell phone statement should list the steps that consumers should take to dispute errors on their bill.

Consumers, who are victims of this scam or cannot resolve this issue successfully with their carrier, should file a complaint with the FTC. This can be done online or by phone at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

Michigan State University Extension educators urge consumers to examine their cell phone bills closely to avoid becoming victims of cramming. For information on other money management topics, please visit

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