Phone-Cramming Victims: We Want to Hear Your Stories

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Phone CrammingOver the past few weeks, I've been writing about the Federal Communications Commission's struggle to deal with "cramming," a multibillion-dollar industry that cheats phone customers by adding illegitimate charges to their bills. My articles on this scam touched a nerve: Since the first piece ran, I've received a steady stream of emails from DailyFinance readers who have struggled with the problem.

Some have asked about the best way to detect crammed charges, while others have shared their battles with scammers. Many of these respondents have displayed the same emotions: frustration, anger and confusion over why mainstream phone companies are aiding a scheme that cheats loyal customers out of billions of dollars.



A Lonely, Costly Battle

As I've commiserated with some readers and offered advice to others, the impact of this scam has become increasingly clear. For many of the estimated 20 million households that are victims of cramming every year, battling against scammers and the phone company is a lonely, costly struggle. Many of those who have written in seemed surprised to discover that they aren't the only ones who have had to deal with this problem. Again and again, I've been struck by the fact that victims haven't had a place where they can share their experiences.

With this in mind, I'm asking you, DailyFinance's readers, to tell me about your phone cramming experiences. If you have been victimized by questionable or illegitimate phone charges, please send me your story. Most importantly, please let me know how you resolved your problem, which resources proved helpful and, if applicable, the ultimate settlement that you reached with the phone company and/or the third-party companies that illegitimately charged you.

You can either post your response in the comments section of this piece, or can email me directly at bruce.watson@teamaol.com. Starting late next week, we will compile some of your stories into articles exploring this scam from victims' perspectives. Thanks for writing in!

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by email at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

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15 Comments

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alchemyny

After being crammed three times on my Verizon landline ( I complained to my Congressman, who in turn sent the complaint to the FCC. FCC is now investigating Verizon), I switched to my local cable company for landline, but kept our V cells ( service is great, it's the customer relations that stink). I received a bill for $75 and change on cancelling the lV landline, which I paid,thinking it my last bill. A few weeks later, I received the same bill again, thought it a mistake, and disregarded it. When I received a letter from a collection co. ( I have NEVER been late w/ any bill, had triple A credit), I called and was told the second $75 was a "payoff figure", not a bill, so I sent another check. I continued to get dunning letters, V claiming to have never received payment. Checking w/ my bank, I saw the chk hadn't been cashed, so I sent ANOTHER check , which also mysteriously disappered, unlike the dozens of other checks I write each month which seem to make their way to the intended parties.
I was recently shocked to have been turned down for credit. Looking at my credit report, I found V has reported me as "Seriously Deliquent", which brought my credit rating down 100 pts in one swoop.
I spent TWO HOURS on hold today w/ V ( during which waiting tiime I called my Congressman and wrote a letter to the FCC), only to be connected to a rep from a company called ER Solutions, a collections agency. When I became irate at her stonewalling, she threatened to put me back on hold (!!). The amount is now in dispute, I'm not sending a 3rd check into the Verizonsphere.
In the meantime, back in March my husband downloaded a $10.99 per month navigation app to his Verizon cell, only to find that each info rq was an additional $2 charge. We immediately cancelled the download, but the $10.99 still appears on the bill ,every month I have to call and argue about it.
Verizon has become a cheapjack rogue organization, resorting to sleazy tactics to shake down clients for a few bucks. Thay are disgusting.

August 11 2011 at 8:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cklehr9387

I received an unexpected charge on my ATT bill of $14.95. It originated from Solo Communications and billed to my account through Total Enhanced Services Billing Inc. I called Solo Communications and requested credit for that amount. I also called ATT to have the charge removed. I expressed my disappointment with ATT for accepting this charge without my approval. I have no idea what service Solo Communications provide. The credits were applied and the situation was resolved.

August 09 2011 at 3:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Terry

I heard one legitimate-sounding reason for why the FCC forces the posting of third-party charges: the example I was given is if I was stuck somewhere without money or my cell phone or a CC (after a theft, perhaps, or if I ended up in jail). I can charge calls to my home phone number, if I know enough of my own information to satisfy the phone company.

If I blocked all third-party charges, I wouldn't be able to charge to myself, being considered a third party!

August 08 2011 at 2:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
magyymae1

Charter called me with a bundling offer where I could get my cable TV and broadband computer service, for which I was already paying $129 a month, plus a free land line phone service plus 2 premium channels for $109. I took the deal. Then I got my bill and I am paying $131 a month. They are charging me less for the other services but I am paying $20 a month for the "free" phone that I have only used twice - to call my cell phone to locate it in the house! On the other hand I am getting 2 premium channels for a couple of dollars. I am about to move so I am just going to go with another company.

August 08 2011 at 11:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mbayawatu

I have AT&T and used to have a land line with them, I did not use it and did not even have a phone connected to it but I thought keeping a line in the home was best in case of power outage or some other thing that could cause us to loose phone service. Then the 3rd party charges started hitting me and AT&T would not stop it. I called the FCC and they at that time said there was nothing they could do. So I got rid of the land line and now use what they call a dry loop for DSL only. The ultimate scam is since I got rid of the Land line and they cant or they have not done the 3rd party charges. I pay more for the DSL actually about the same as I did when I got hit with the 3rd party charges. Looking for and alternative but it seems they are all the same. So much for deregulation and increased competition driving prices down.

August 07 2011 at 10:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Henry

If give you my story Bruce will you give me a cut of the money you get for this article?

August 07 2011 at 7:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pamela!

How about this scam.....Aol had been charging us $33.92 per month for basic dial-up until we recently found out one of our relatives were getting it for just $12.48!!!!! We had been paying for over 7 years at that rate AND not too long ago, they increased it $32.40 to the $33.92. Their response when we inquired as to why are rate is so much higher? They said, "YOU did not call us and tell us that you wanted to be billed the going rate." WHATTTTTT!!!!!! We were paying the introductory rate of years ago and they do not go through their customers and reduce anything unless you notify them, but they will go across the board of their customers and hike rates. I doubt this comment will appear, just wanted to vent over the lost thousands of dollars we spent for nothing!!!!!!

August 07 2011 at 3:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jctoucan4

I had a $13.95 charge from some company that I had supposedly signed up with, on my Verizon FIOS bill, in April. Once I started to insist they send me a copy of that "agreement" they said they would refund me, but I didn't trust them, so I contacted Verizon and they refunded me and put a block on my line for any future charges. Verizon said they were legally obligated to bill for small 3rd party companies; it was some agreement the FCC forced on them years ago. In fact, I remember the days of outrageous charges for private pay phones that I had occasionally used in the early '90's(before cell phones were common). Again, they were required to bill for these small (usually disreputable) companies. So is it an FCC ruling that phone companies have to accept 3rd party billing?

August 07 2011 at 1:20 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jctoucan4's comment
alchemyny

Verizon'z story about being "forced by the FCC to add 3rd party charges to a bill is an outright lie, in fact, the FCC is coming down on them now because of them,
The story I got from V is that they added 3rd party charges as a "favor" to their customers , to keep them informed of new products...ha!
They are b4stard-coated b4stards with b4stard filling.

August 11 2011 at 9:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rkobetitsc

noticed a $23.00 voice mail charge on my verizon bill last year , checked back bills + found that it was going on for almost a year - found out that it was from a company in florida ( voice mail is free part of verizon phone package ) - called verizon + found that it was an unauthorized third party charge on my bill - months of phone calls with verizon + florida company to obtain partial refund - filed complaints with fcc + ftc + never got a reponse - this march i found another charge on my verizon bill for a phone line that was supposed to be deleted by them when i purchased their dsl service ( i still had the job order # for the work ) - 6 weeks of phone calls + emails with verizon supervisors + they refused refund even though they acknowledged that phone was not used + should have been shut off - contacted county consumer affairs + filed a complaint - after apx. 2 months received phone call from verizon that i would be given a $500.00 credit against bill - since problem started over two years ago bill format changed twice , making it even more confusing - verizon customer since they have been in business + they still refused to issue credits for their mistakes + they were notified not to allow any third party charges on bill -

August 07 2011 at 6:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sixshtr2

I put up with the 'Cramming' for years with no relief from the phone company. I deducted all those charges from the payments several month in a row and was threatened by one of the crammers that my phone service would be canceled if I didn`t pay it. All this was on a landline phone with one of the largest Phone Companies on the East Coast. I finally eliminated all of it, I got rid of the landline and went with a Pay As You Go Cell Phone. I reduced my monthly phone cost from $80.00 mo. to an average of $9.00 month now with the Cell. I have texting, call waiting voice mail and Web access no roaming chg, nationwide direct dial, really more than I need with the Cell service.
No phone solicitors either. That in itself is worth a lot, not having to put up with nuisance calls all the time.
B

August 07 2011 at 4:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sixshtr2's comment
E

can you tell me/us which cell pay as you go with all those features? Sounds like something I would want...Thx

August 07 2011 at 5:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply