Millions of Americans use
cell phones but not all of them pay close attention to the charges on their
Here's why you should: The
Federal Trade Commission says you may be getting ripped off and not even know
The widespread practice is
Rene Marsh reports.
Victims of the scheme say it was
buried on one of the many pages of their cell phone bill. Extra charges that went undetected — in some
cases for months before they noticed.
“One month of it being a little
higher and we didn't think anything of it and it wasn't until three months of
it being consistently higher that we finally looked into it and discovered we
had been cramming victims.”
Christie Hicks, a Chicago attorney,
says she was the victim of a scam called cramming, “Consumers can pay for
services by having it tacked onto their cell phone bills.”
In the days following Hurricane Katrina
text donations were billed to cell phone users with their permission.
But the Federal Trade Commission says,
over the years, some companies with shady practices have taken advantage of the
feature — capturing cell phone numbers through web sites like these, or mobile
“Malicious software that's
downloaded on your phone after you download a app and that gets your phone
number and somehow your signed up for some kind of service.”
Once the questionable companies get
your number they cram on the charges.
“You had to actually dig thru all
50 pages to find a single line that had this $9.99 charge on it”
Wise Media, the company hicks says crammed
her, is the first the FTC has gone after — filing a lawsuit in federal court.
The agency says Wise Media made
millions, and much of it was from unauthorized charges.
Wise Media denies cramming customers
and says the fees were for subscription services. An attorney for the company
said costumers who requested a refund received one.
The FTC says this is the tip of the
iceberg — they plan to go after other violators and they have tough questions
for cell phone companies who they say get a cut of the charges.
“How does this cut influence what
happens here? What kind of profits are you getting?”