Cell Phone Cramming - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken News, Weather, Sports

Cell Phone Cramming

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Millions of Americans use cell phones but not all of them pay close attention to the charges on their bill.

Here's why you should: The Federal Trade Commission says you may be getting ripped off and not even know it. 

The widespread practice is called 'cramming.'

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 app's.

"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?"

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