Have you received unknown charges on your cell phone bill? According to the Federal Trade Commission, mobile cramming, the unauthorized practice of third party charges to cell phone accounts is becoming an epidemic. If you are signed up for ongoing text messages containing horoscopes, flirting tips, trivia or other messages, you too could be charged.
Earlier this month the FTC accused T-Mobile of placing unauthorized premiums on customer's bills (Luckerson, 2014). According to the FTC Mobile Cramming Report, they have started an investigation and have filed suit in federal district court against T-Mobile USA (FTC, 2014).The charge states that T-Mobile continued to charge customers even after it had become aware the charges were unauthorized (FTC, 2014). Reportedly, T-mobile made millions off text message cramming by benefiting as much as 40% from the monthly charges made to consumers.
AT&T, Verizon and Sprint in the past have also been known to pass along mobile cramming third party charges, but have recently made public statements on how they are going to prevent mobile cramming (FTC, 2014). Sadly, mobile cramming is not new but has become a country wide problem because mobile phone carriers are allowing it to happen for profit. Last year the FTC filed a suit against Wise Media, LLC for selling recurring subscriptions for text messages notifications for diet tips, love tips and horoscopes (FTC, 2014). Consumers charged by this company reported never signing up, but the company claimed they signed up for their services by visiting websites offering their subscriptions (FTC, 2014).
To help protect your phone from mobile cramming and identity theft, take the following measures:
- Contact your carrier to block any third party charges. This is especially important if you have children signed up on your account.
- Beware of deceptive ads which do not properly disclose the price or billing information. Do not believe text messages or ads offering free prizes.
- If you did not provide informed consent for any charges made to your cell phone, dispute them with your carrier who according to the FTC must have an effective resolution dispute process in place to help you get a refund for mobile cramming.
- Talk with your kids about giving out their cell phone number and entering it on websites that offer free prizes or other free text message alerts.
When it comes to identity theft, you have to be stingy with all your information including your cell phone number. If you have been the victim of mobile cramming or identity theft and you live in Santa Ana or elsewhere, report the incident to the FTC at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1
Remember that identity theft protection begins with raising awareness, so be sure to forward this article to your friends and family, as well as subscribe for the latest updates on how to protect yourself from identity theft and other scams.
FTC (2014) Mobile cramming Federal Trade Commission Staff Report. Retrieved from http://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/reports/mobile-cramming-federal-trade-commission-staff-report-july-2014/140728mobilecramming.pdf
Luckerson, V. (2014, July 1). Feds: T-Mobile charged customers for spam text frauds Time Magazine. Retrieved from http://time.com/2946903/t-mobile-ftc-cramming/