Sen. Richard Blumenthal joined Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in Hartford on Monday to raise awareness of "mobile cramming," a tactic where third-party vendors nickel and dime consumers’ cell phone bills without their consent or knowledge.
“Over time, these charges add up,” said Rosenworcel. “What this is is modern-day pick-pocketing, and it’s fraud. Pure and simple.”
You don’t necessarily have to do anything to fall victim to cramming, but sometimes, the culprits lure you in by sending you a horoscope or trivia. Just by opening the text, you’ve given them access to your account.
Then, on your cellphone bill, the crammer’s tab will often fall under “usage charges,” a detail vague enough to overlook, at a price that might not raise any red flags.
And according to Blumenthal, your carrier didn’t raise any red flags, either.
“These companies had to have known that a lot of these charges were false and fraudulent,” said Blumenthal.
But what’s in it for them?
“The telephone companies receive 30-40 cents of every dollar paid on these fraudulent, phony fees,” said Blumenthal.
The good news is that consumers can apply for a refund through their carriers for fraudulent charges dating as far back as 2010.
But whether cramming has affected you or not, the FCC encourages consumers ask their carriers to block third-party charges from their bill.
“If they find something on their statement that doesn’t look right, they should complain,” said Rosenworcel.
And, as always, be on the lookout.
“Refunds are due to thousands of consumers in Connecticut, but they have to make the claim," Blumenthal said. "Please, get that accounting and make the claim, because you deserve it.”
AT&T and T-Mobile are the only two carriers offering refunds right now, and consumers have to make the claims directly through them. Sprint is currently under investigation for allowing the same practices.
NBC Connecticut reached out to T-Mobile to see if the company had anything to add, but company representatives didn’t get back to us.