Cramming is the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges on your telephone bill. Entities that fraudulently cram people appear to rely largely on confusing telephone bills in order to mislead consumers into paying for services that they did not authorize or receive.
In addition to providing local telephone service, local telephone companies often bill their customers for long distance service and other services that other companies provide. When the local company, the long distance telephone company, or another type of service provider either accidentally or intentionally sends inaccurate billing data to be included on the consumer’s local telephone bill, cramming can occur.
Cramming also occurs when a local or long distance
company or another type of service provider does not
clearly or accurately describe all of the relevant charges
to the consumer when marketing the service. Although
the consumer did authorize the service, the charge is
still considered "cramming" because the consumer
What do cramming charges look like? Cramming comes in many forms and is often hard to detect unless you closely review your telephone bill. The following charges would be legitimate if a consumer had authorized them but, if unauthorized, these charges could constitute cramming:
While cramming charges typically appear on consumers’ local telephone bills, they may also be included with bills issued by long distance telephone carriers and companies providing other types of services, including cellular telephone, digital telephone, beeper and pager services.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has rules that require telephone companies to make their phone bills more consumer-friendly. These rules enable consumers to more easily determine, when reading their bills, what services have been provided, by whom, and the charges assessed for these services. Telephone companies must also list a toll-free number on their bills for customers with billing inquiries.
Such basic information empowers consumers to protect themselves from cramming and other types of telecommunications fraud. It also helps consumers make informed choices when they shop around to find the best telephone service to meet their needs.
How to Protect Yourself and Save Money
What to Do If You Think You’ve Been Crammed
If you find unknown charges on your telephone bill, immediately call the company that charged you for the services you did not authorize or use. Ask the company to explain the charges. Request an adjustment to your bill for any incorrect charges.
Call your own local telephone company. FCC rules require telephone companies to place a toll-free number on their bills for customers to contact with billing inquiries. Explain your concerns about the charges and ask your local telephone company about the procedure for removing incorrect charges from your bill.
If neither the local phone company nor the company
in question will remove incorrect charges from your
telephone bill, contact the Commission’s Consumer
Affairs Division at 1-800-852-3793 Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.