Have you ever thought of your phone bill as a kind of credit card? Well, companies that charge for services you never ordered do, and the Attorney General is going after them. Attorney General Chris Koster says unauthorized charges crammed onto consumer telephone bills are costing Missourians hundreds of thousands of dollars, and many might not even know it. It’s called “cramming.”
Koster has filed suit against six telephone cramming companies targeting Missourians. He says commonly crammed products and services include things like toll-free voicemail, internet faxing, grocery coupons, identity theft protection, emergency contact calling or texting, streaming radio, and environmentally friendly business services.
The charges generally show up on the last page of a phone bill as “enhanced services, he says, and many consumers believe the charges are from their telephone service provider.
As Attorney General, cramming is one of the most maddening scams he tackles, Koster says. He says these companies often get access to consumer bills when people enter contests and sweepstakes online or at fairs and festivals, sign “bonus checks” they get in the mail, respond to prize solicitations by mail or give out their number online when it’s not necessary.
He’s urging everyone to look at their phone bill closely each month. He says extra charges are worth looking into.
This week is also National Consumer Protection Week.
He’s filed lawsuits for consumer fraud against the following companies:
Coast to Coast Voice of Concord, NH;
Green Certification of Miami, FL;
Family Contact 911 of Clearwater, FL in Jackson County;
SBO Online of Los Angeles, CA;
Odyssey Communications of Tenafly, NJ
ID Life Guards, Inc. of Glendale, CA in St. Louis County.
The lawsuits charge the companies have placed unauthorized charges on thousands of consumers’ telephone bills for products and services they did not purchase, want, or use.
“The charges generally appear on the last page of the consumer’s bill as ‘enhanced services’ or in the name of the billing aggregator, such as OAN, ILD, or ESBI,” Koster’s office reports.
The Attorney General is seeking restitution for consumers and a permanent injunction against the defendants to stop the unfair practices and return to Missouri consumers the money that was unlawfully charged. If you have been charged by any of these companies without your consent, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 1-800-392-8222 or online at www.ago.mo.gov and file a consumer complaint.
The Federal Communications Commission also tracks cramming complaints for possible future regulatory action. Report cramming to the FCC at: FCC, Common Carrier Bureau, Consumer Complaints, Mail Stop 1600A2, Washington, DC 20554; or call 888-225-5322.
AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports (1:08)