Third-party charges on customer phone bills, which can sometimes be bogus, should be banned, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said on Wednesday.
She said the practice -- called "cramming" -- has exploited unknowing consumers, whose phone numbers are used to charge hundreds of dollars in bogus services they never asked for or wanted.
“Phone bill cramming is such a persistent and pervasive problem, I believe that the only effective solution is to enact legislation banning third party charges on phone bills,” Madigan told the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee in Washington, D.C.
A congressional investigation found since 2006, Americans have unknowingly been shelling out $2 billion per year in bogus, third-party charges that get buried in their phone bills.
Why would phone companies thought of as "reputable" even allow third parties to sneak charges onto their customers’ bills? Investigators said cramming has earned companies like Verizon, AT&T, and CenturyLink $650 million since 2006.
Sometimes, the only way to avoid being victimized is by going over your phone bill with a fine-tooth comb, making sure you’re familiar with all the charges listed. Investigators said the practice of "cramming" is already pervasive for land-line phone bills, but it’s starting to emerge with cell phone bills.
Oftentimes, it starts when a consumer enters his or her phone number on the Internet to a third-party, thinking they’re entering some contest or give-away.
The Federal Trade Commission has information on its site on how to avoid being victimized by "cramming.