Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cramming

I recently came across a very interesting article on “cramming.” Cramming is when a “scamming company” gets a hold of your phone number and bills you for a variety of services such as voicemail accounts, call waiting, etc.

For example, the author of this story got “crammed” when his wife signed up to win a free Vegas Vacation on one of those online popups. He suddenly had a bill for 4 voicemail accounts on his AT&T bill. AT&T can’t remove the charges as the phone companies just pass charges through (similar to how collect calls work). There is no authentication involved, all that is needed is a phone number. Meaning if I entered your phone number into this form, you would be billed 14.95 a month X3 for three new voicemail services.



The FTC states that you should:
1) Call the company and request that they refund your money.
2) Call your telephone company and see their policy for this
3) File a complaint with the FTC

None of the following guarantee you get your money back. My experience with a recent scam has been that the company does not have a real phone number, or no one ever picks up. The Phone companies, or Credit Card Companies can usually block charges but will rarely do so each month (meaning you need to call them each month). And a complaint with the FTC will get resolved in the usual government fashion... slowly.

To read more, including a couple scripts on his calls: http://arstechnica.com/articles/culture/cram-this.ars

Overall I would recommend that everyone be diligent online. Use common sense (A free Vegas Vacation is too good to be true) and check your bills carefully!

Nate

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1 Comments:

At 12:10 PM, Anonymous David said...

That is really a shocking practice. Why haven't I seen more about it? Is there any way to make it back-fire on the scammer? For example, if I plug an 800 number into the popup would that raise red flags at the phone company and get them to put a stop to it? It seems like ID theft gets more and more difficult to protect against every day.

 

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