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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > August 2013 > Take a Good Look at Your Phone Bill

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Take a Good Look at Your Phone Bill

Your phone bill may just be another one on the list to pay every month. But next time it arrives, take a second look for extra charges or fees. Some may be for services you didn’t order, agree to, or use. If you find these, you may be a victim of  “cramming.”

Cramming occurs when third-party companies, not your phone company, add charges to your phone bill. They may be nominal amounts, such as $2 to $3, which you might not catch at first glance. Larger cramming charges may be for services that sound legitimate such as “web hosting” or “member fees.” Since these charges come in various amounts with many different names, they can be hard to identify.
The best way to avoid cramming charges is to review your phone bill closely every month. Once you become familiar with various charges, cramming will be easier to spot. Watch for charges that have generic-sounding names, and look for numbers with unfamiliar area codes. Cramming charges may include:
  • Subscriptions for Internet-related services, such as web hosting
  • Access to restricted websites
  • Entertainment services with a 900 area code
  • Collect calls
  • Club memberships
Sometimes you can’t do anything to stop a determined crammer from filling your phone bill with unauthorized charges. But you can avoid some of the common ways crammers get your number. Avoid the lure of “free” offers, whether entering a contest, joining a club, or getting extra phone minutes. You may be giving permission to the company to enroll you in a service and never receive the promised item.
If you see an unfamiliar charge on your phone bill, call your phone company and ask for an explanation. Consider requesting that your phone company block all third-party charges.  

To report cramming or an unfair or deceptive business practice, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.