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Check your phone bill for ‘cramming’

Updated: July 29, 2012 9:12PM

The annoying practice of “cramming” — in which unsavory businesses use your phone account to bill you for bogus, third-party services such as premium voicemail and hotlines — got a lot of attention this month, with some consumer advocates calling for a national ban.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined the fight, testifying before the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee after her office received complaints from consumers surprised to find mystery charges on their phone bills.

Phone bill cramming can occur when a consumer goes online and innocently clicks on a free trial, coupon, recipe or prize, or agrees to a free trial over the phone. It also can happen when a consumer fills out a sweepstakes entry.

The consumer provides a phone number in the process, but doesn’t realize he is going to be billed for a third-party phone service.

How to stop it? Check your phone bill for unusual line items attributed to a company other than your regular phone service provider.

If you didn’t order something, call your phone company and ask them to remove it from your account.

If that doesn’t work, contact the FCC at or (888) CALL-FCC.

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