Mobile Cramming

What It Is and How to Stop It

Confused by some of the charges on your monthly cell phone bill? Take the time to figure out what they're for because some of them may not be legit. Mobile cramming, the act of sticking unauthorized, third-party charges on your cell phone bill, is becoming increasingly common, and it could be costing you a lot of money.

How Mobile Cramming Works

Cell phone bills are a confusing multi-page mess, and most people just pay them without ever looking at the line-by-line breakdown.

Scammers know this, and they take advantage of it by charging you for services that you never ordered. And just in case you do take the time to look at your bill, they cleverly disguise them as text message fees, app or gaming charges, song downloads, ring tones, charitable donations or something else that you might expect to see.

To further avoid detection, they also tend to keep the charges small. A $2 charge isn't likely to raise your suspicion, but it's enough to put a lot of money in the scammer's hands when they pull the same trick on hundreds of thousands of people.

How to Tell If You've Been Crammed

Go over your cell phone bill each month, and make sure you understand each charge. Pay special attention to any charges that you haven't seen in previous months.

If there's something that doesn't make sense to you, call your provider, and ask them to give you more details about the charge.

That should quickly clear up whether it's something you bought (and forgot about), or something that a third-party tried to sneak in there.

What to Do If You've Been Crammed

Call your cell phone provider to notify them of the problem. Ask to have the charges removed from your bill. Then, go to fraud.org to report the incident.

This will ensure that the FTC, FCC, National Association of Attorneys General and more than 90 law enforcement agencies hear about the incident.

How to Protect Yourself from Mobile Cramming

If you only use your phone to make calls and send text messages (meaning you don't use it to buy any apps or services), call your cell provider, and ask them to block third-party billing. This will make it impossible for you to get crammed.

If blocking third-party billing isn't an option for you, be more careful about who you give your number out to. You should be especially wary of any website that asks for your cell phone number. These days, it's like handing over a credit card number.

Watch for Other Forms of Cramming

Landlines and credit cards can get crammed, too. Be sure to review your bills each month, and report any fraudulent charges immediately.

More Ways to Keep Your Cell Bill in Check: