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Insight from WFPD: Caution: Fraudulent charges may appear on your phone bill

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(The following post appears courtesy of Richard Goldberg, Assistant Director of the Civil Division's Consumer Protection Branch.)

Did you know that your telephone bills may contain charges for products or services other than telephone service, much like charges on a credit card? Those who carry out these types of fraud have found ways to insinuate themselves onto the telephone billing system, and arrange for false charges to appear on telephone bills. As a result, you could be paying for goods or services you never ordered or received.

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"Cramming" is the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading or deceptive charges on a telephone bill. The perpetrators tend to keep crammed charges small, to increase the likelihood that you will pay your bill without noticing the false charges. They do this on both consumer and business telephone bills, on landline and wireless bills.

The Consumer Protection Branch in the Justice Department's Civil Division is working hard to prosecute these criminals. But individuals are really the front line in the battle against cramming and in the best position to notice these false charges. Crammed charges may appear on any page of a telephone bill, so you should carefully review your bill on a monthly basis.

If you see unfamiliar or suspicious charges on your telephone bill, you should contact your local telephone company, tell the telephone company of the cramming, and instruct the company to remove the false charge and give a credit for false charges on any previous bills, and submit a complaint summarizing the false charges to the Federal Trade Commission.

Many telephone companies will, upon request, exclude third-party billing from a customer's telephone bill. Doing so may prevent crammed charges from appearing on telephone bills in the future.

Visit FCC.gov for more information about cramming and how to protect yourself.

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