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Cramming your phone bill

Phone bill cramming is a deceptive practice used by phone companies or sometimes by other non telecom service providers to overcharge you for services you never authorized or for services you were misled into authorizing. Note that telephone companies MAY include charges from other companies on your phone bill. For example, when calling a 900 pay per call number you will be charged a fee that will be included on your phone bill, even though the fee is not charged by your phone company.

The most known cramming techniques are:

  • Charges from your phone company for services you did not authorize or order
    Often times phone companies charge you for extra services such as voicemail, etc without your ordering these services. They do this because they know most people do not closely examine their phone bills, therefore such charges can go undetected for a long time.
  • Charges from other companies, usually entertainment services, psychics, etc
    For example, you call a 900 number to receive a particular service such as a psychic reading; you're aware of the fee paid for listening to what they tell you, however you don't know that your phone number might be identified and associated with some other service charged monthly on your phone bill. Such companies usually use deceptive techniques to make you agree to paying without being aware of it. Our advise: always treat pay per call companies with caution.

What you should know:

  • Extra charges on your phone bill MUST be clearly and suggestively identified
  • Not paying fees charged by other than your telephone company generally DO NOT result in service interruption; therefore, if you see unauthorized charges from other companies you can refuse to pay them without worrying about not being able to use your phone service
  • Phone bills must provide some contact info (toll free number) for you to question charges

What to do/not to do:

  • Carefully study your phone bill; for a list of legitimate charges found on all telephone bills visit this page
  • Avoid calling 900 or other pay per call numbers, especially when you're asked to call for collecting a prize or other "too good to be true" deal
  • If you are not sure about a particular charge ask the company charging you for explanations before paying your bill
  • Do not pay if you know for sure you did not authorize a service

Other resources on cramming: