Local

Fees Secretly Added To Phone Bills Of Millions

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iPhone (credit: CBS)

iPhone (credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4) – The Federal Communications Commission is cracking down on the practice known as “cramming.”

The FCC has proposed more than $11 million in fines for companies accused of adding bogus charges to a phone bill for everything from psychics to yoga.

Many people don’t ever notice strange charges on their phone bills. It could be a long distance charge or an extra charge for text messages. The unauthorized charges is known as “cramming,” and it happened to Samantha Malone.

“I saw a charge, I think it was for $9.99, and I didn’t ever remember subscribing to anything that would warrant that charge,” Malone said.

The FCC estimates Malone is one of 20 million Americans who’ve been scammed by cramming.

“Charges for yoga classes, cosmetics, diet products, and yes, psychic hotline memberships,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said.

The charges usually range from $1.99 to $19.99 and only about one out of 20 consumers realize they’re being ripped off because the fees are hard to spot.

“You and I both get a bill on a monthly basis, and if it’s off by a dollar here, a couple dollars there, you don’t think it’s a big deal until you start researching and looking and saying, ‘I don’t think I signed up for this,'” Dale Mingilton with the Better Business Bureau said.

The FCC proposed $11.7 million in penalties for cramming to Main Street Telephone; Voicenet Telephone, LLC; Cheap2Dial Telephone, LLC; and Norristown Telephone. They are accused of adding long distance service to customer’s bills that was never authorized.

“We say very regularly that you should protect your phone number as well as your credit card because really all they need is your phone number to start billing you,” Mingilton said.

Malone says her phone company didn’t help, but her credit card company did resolve the problem.

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