Cramming is a growing epidemic in the United States. Through this process, unscrupulous spammers sneak hard-to-detect charges onto your bill without your express permission. At under $2.00 a piece, they’re easily overlooked. And by the time most of us catch cramming in action, we’ve paid hundreds of dollars for services we didn’t ask for.
The problem is so widespread that the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation investigated. And they found that cramming costs the public roughly $2 billion per year. And cell phone carriers do very little to protect customers from these unwanted costs.
Cramming is such a pernicious problem because it’s difficult to detect. And according to the FCC, only 1 in 20 people are aware they’re being crammed.
It starts with a few innocent-looking spam messages: texts that offer you services that you don’t want or need. For the most part, phone owners simply ignore these texts. Most of us are familiar with scammers’ tricks. We know better than to click or respond and think ignoring it will keep us safe. After all, it works with e-mail.
And that’s what the scammers are banking on. You ignore the texts but allow them to keep coming. And then the cramming starts. Crammers always begin small. The charges may be under a dollar for each text you’re sent without your permission.
When those small charges show up on our bills, most of us don’t notice them. Between overages and other minor changes, bills fluctuate all the time. And no one investigates a $2 or $3 fluctuation in their bill.
But if you let the crammers get away with the first few charges, they ramp up the frequency and charge for the text messages. Each month, the add-ons to your bill will get larger and larger until you finally take notice.
By that time, you may have paid out hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Complain to your phone carrier and they won’t do anything to refund your stolen money. In fact, they get kick backs from the charge thieves in the form of fees they charge the scammers to add on to your bill through your carrier.
You can fight the excess charges in court, but the process is long and arduous and most customers decide to just stop the charges, count their losses and move on — another thing the crammers count on.
Luckily, the U.S. Congress is currently working to make cramming illegal. Until then, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself. First, call your wireless carrier and request a block on all third-party charges. This simple step will prevent 99% of cramming charges according to Denis Kelly, founder of Identity Ambassador Commission.
If that doesn’t work, you can register your cell’s phone number with the National Do Not Call registry. This will prevent crammers from calling or texting you without suffering legal consequences.
Or, just check your wireless bill every month. Vigilance is the best way to catch cramming early before they take too much of your money. If you find that you’ve been crammed, report the crammer to the FTC or the FCC to help authorities prosecute crammers.