Mysterious charges could be popping up in your phone bill

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SURPRISE, Ariz., - Sarah Mulleneaux first noticed a suspicious charge on her AT&T cell phone bill last month.

“Had no problems with them up until the point where I found the $9.99 charge on my bill that I never signed up for,” Sarah said.

The charges were from a company not associated with AT&T are listed on the bill under mobile purchases and downloads.

“It was called Too Lazy Text alerts and so I researched it,” she said. “Basically they're a text service that sends you alerts like horoscopes or whatever you signed up for.”

Problem is, Sarah says she never signed up for the service and never received any text.

After looking back at old bills, she realized she had been charged $10 a month for at least a year.

“I was surprised and I was mad too because after I found out who they were I went back 12 months worth of bills and found that charge.

I just couldn't believe they're charging me each month,” Sarah said.

Adding unauthorized charges to your phone bill is a practice called cramming, and according to Felicia Thompson with the Better Business Bureau, it's a problem with countless victims.

“Unfortunately, third party billers can bill to your phone bill,” Thompson said.

The Federal Trade Commission received thousands of cramming complaints last year.

The Arizona Attorney General's office tells 3 On Your Side it's also looking into several complaints involving cramming.

Thompson says companies who cram often advertise a "free" service when there's actually a subscription fee for it.

“Some of the programs that you might be signing up for inadvertently sign you up for monthly billing cycles. So, anything from ringtones, to anything you can download online so, we're warning people,” Thompson said.

After spending hours trying to get the text service canceled and her money back, Sarah says AT&T finally refunded her about $40.
She's also added a purchase blocker to her account.

“Because that's the only way to stop it from happening because a purchase blocker blocks any purchases and you have to put a code in order to purchase something,” Sarah said.

Sarah says she never thought to check for a charge she didn't authorize and now scours her bill for the fees and says you should too.

“Go through your online bill if you have online billing just go through it, comb through it all the way until you make sure you know there's no charges,” she said.

UPDATE:

The day after 3 On Your Side aired this report, AT&T agreed to credit $200 to Sarah's account.