Premium text messages really add up

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PHOENIX -- Deborah Wayman is taking a crash course in text messaging from her daughter, Nicole.

"I've never turned it [my phone] sideways, so the numbers are larger," Wayman jokingly said to her daughter as she learns new texting tricks.

Wayman is the first to admit that text messaging isn't all that easy if you're not used to it.

"Well, I understood it and the concept of it but I didn't know how to do it," she said.

Even when Wayman manages to successfully send a text message to her daughter, it never actually comes out like she wanted it to.

"No, she'll pick up the phone and say, ‘What did that say?’" she said, laughing as she explained her lack in texting skills.

Because Wayman doesn't text much, her daughter Nicole couldn't figure out why there was a $10 monthly fee for a specific text message that her mom got.

Nicole called T-Mobile for an explanation and was told it was a $10 monthly subscription to a debt-relief program.  And it's all due to a text message her mom received and ignored.

"It shouldn't happen,” Nicole told 3 On Your Side. “Nobody should be bill for not replying to a text message."

It turns out the debt-relief company texted Wayman some kind of sales pitch.  Because she didn't reply telling them to "stop," because she doesn't know how to text, the company automatically enrolled her into the program and put the third-party charge on her daughter's T-Mobile bill.?

"Well, they were going to charge me $10 a month all because she didn't reply stop," Nicole said about the recurring monthly charge.

It's actually called premium text messaging.  It's a fee that is charged by third parties through your texting plan. The Internet is filled with complaints from consumers who say they were targeted with premium text-messaging fees from various companies that texted them.

Nicole and her mom say T-Mobile agreed to remove the bogus charge, but they wonder how many consumers out there have been hit and don't know it.

"Oh yeah, people should be aware to check their bill monthly to see if there are any additional charges,” Nicole said.

To make sure this does not happen to you, 3 On Your Side has a suggestion.  Call your cell phone provider and request that they block or stop your phone from receiving any premium text messages.  This will not affect your current texting capabilities.  You can also block your phone from sending premium text messages. Blocking your phone is a good idea if you have children with cell phones.

Sometimes teens will text a company after seeing a product on TV or a magazine advertisement, not knowing that the text carries a premium text-message charge or subscription. A block on your phone will prevent you from both sending or receiving all premium text messages.

In regards to the story above, T-Mobile sent 3 On Your Side the statement below:??

“We encourage our customers to read all text messages and other third-party messages carefully, especially if they are agreeing to any recurring charges. Customers also have the option, at no additional charge, to block the ability to have third-party charges included on your T-Mobile bill by calling T-Mobile Customer Service. Unless you choose to activate this blocking option, you authorize T-Mobile to place those charges on your bill when you purchase those products or services.

"For background information related to privacy and mobile spam, you can find further information on our privacy policies here: http://www.t-mobile.com/Company/PrivacyResources.aspx.

"T-Mobile is committed to fighting mobile spam and encourages our customers to report unsolicited messages to us for investigation. If you receive an unsolicited message please forward it to the Spam Reporting Service following the three simple steps below:

"1. Forward the message to 7726 (which spells “SPAM” on most phone keypads). Please don’t edit the message or add any comments.

"2. We will reply to your message with an SMS confirming we have received it and asking you to send us the number of the original sender.

"3. Please send us the telephone number of the person who sent the spam. We will use this information to help identify who is sending spam and take appropriate action.

"By reporting SMS spam, you are helping us identify spammers and the messages they send. There is no charge to report mobile spam. Messages forwarded to 7726 do not count toward your plan."