Beware of 'mystery charges' on your phone bill

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PHOENIX -- The Federal Trade Commission says you may be getting ripped off and not even know it.  It's a practice called ‘cramming’ where victims of the scheme say charges were buried on one of the many pages of their cell phone bill.

Extra charges went undetected, and in some cases for months.

"One month of it being a little higher and we didn't think anything of it and it wasn't until three months of it being consistently higher that we finally looked into it and discovered we had been cramming victims," said Christie Hicks, an alleged cramming victim.

Consumers can pay for legitimate services by having it tacked onto their cell phone bill. For example, in the days following hurricane Katrina text donations were billed to cell phone users with their permission.

But the Federal Trade Commission says, over the years, some companies with shady practices have taken advantage of the feature --capturing cell phone numbers through websites like these, or mobile apps.

"Malicious software that's downloaded on your phone after you download an app and that gets your phone number and somehow you’re signed up for some kind of service," said Malini Mithal with the FTC.

Once the questionable companies get your number they cram on the charges.

"You had to actually dig through all 50 pages to find a single line that had this $9.99 charge on it," said Hicks.

Wise Media, the company Hicks says crammed her, is the first the FTC has gone after, filing a lawsuit in federal court. 

The agency says Wise Media made millions, and much of it was from unauthorized charges.  Wise Media denies cramming customers and says the fees were for subscription services.

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