FTC Cracks Down on Cell Phone Bill 'Cramming' Scam

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Alamy
Alamy
Cell phone bills are steep enough as it is, but many consumers have had to deal with bills further inflated by scammers who use spam text messages to cram fraudulent charges onto them. Fortunately, the government is finally doing something about those spamming, cramming scammers.

The Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday that it was filing a lawsuit against Wise Media LLC to halt what it says are deceptive business practices. According to the complaint, Wise Media signed consumers up for subscription services costing $9.99 a month, then sent them horoscopes, love tips and other unsolicited content. These consumers were billed regardless of whether they responded to the texts.

As the FTC notes in a statement, many people don't bother to check the details of their cell phone bills, so the extra charges often went unnoticed. And those customers who did notice the charges weren't always able to dispute them.

The agency is seeking to freeze the company's assets, and has requested that the court order it halt its "deceptive and unfair practices," and require it to issue refunds to the scam's victims.
While this marks the first time that the FTC has gone after mobile scammers, the agency has tangled with crammers before: In January, it went after eVoice, which it said was sneaking monthly charges of up to $25 onto consumers' landline phone bills.

Fighting these scams can be difficult: As the FTC notes, third-party businesses are able to add charges to your cell phone bill for what they say are legitimate subscription services. And as this lawsuit makes clear, simply responding to a text saying that you didn't subscribe isn't enough to make sure you aren't charged. The agency recommends that you ask your carrier to block any number that tries to charge you. And if you find a mystery charge on your bill, be sure to report it to the FTC and follow your carrier's instructions for disputing the charge.

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.

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