March 12, 2010
Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster said today that a scam called “cramming” ranks near the top of complaints his office receives each year.
Koster said telephone companies contract to provide billing and collection services for third-party companies. Cramming happens when a third-party company adds a charge to your phone bill for a service you didn’t order, such as voicemail, Internet service, or calling cards. He said these charges are sometimes hidden on the phone bill under such titles as “enhanced services,” “activation,” or “web hosting.”
“Unethical companies are betting that consumers won’t read their phone bills,” Koster said. “That’s why it’s important that consumers carefully review their phone bills each month.”
Koster cautioned consumers about entering contests and sweepstakes at fairs or festivals because some entry blanks may double as authorization forms to add phone services. He said people also can get crammed as a result of signing “bonus checks” they receive in the mail and by responding to offers of prizes and cash solicited by mail.
“Always read the small print, and if a form or a caller asks for your phone number, ask questions and find out why they need the number,” Koster said. “If you do get crammed, call your local phone company immediately and ask that the charges be removed, and call the company named on the bill and explain you did not request the services and ask that they be removed. Then call the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 1-800-392-8222 and file a complaint.”
Koster said his office received 705 cramming complaints in 2009 and his Consumer Complaint Division is currently investigating a number of companies for the practice.
Koster is issuing a “scam of the day alert” each day this week as part of National Consumer Protection Week.