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Daily Q&A: How can I stop telephone fees for services I didn't request?

I'm finding fees added to my telephone bill for services I did not request. How can I stop this from happening?

When fees are added to your bill without your permission, it's called "cramming." These charges often are added to your bill by a third party.

The Better Business Bureau says some victims of cramming may have inadvertently signed up for a subscription service — such as for "free" ring tones or a daily joke or horoscopes — not realizing they'd be billed every month. Calling a psychic hot line or entering a sweepstakes can also lead to cramming.

And in some cases, the victim may just be an unlucky, random target.

"You might think that nothing bad can happen from giving out your telephone number, but you should guard those digits like you would a credit card or social security number," said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.

Here are suggestions from Bernas:

• Keep a close eye on monthly statements. Anyone can become a victim of cramming so monitoring your monthly bills is extremely important. The sooner you spot the charges, the sooner you can fight them.

• Know your rights. Contact your telephone provider to see if you can completely restrict third-party billing on your account.

• Know whom you can trust online. Before sharing any personal information online, always research the business with your BBB at www.bbb.org. And file a complaint with the FCC for charges related to telephone service and FTC for all other cramming charges on your phone bill, if you can't resolve the matter with the phone company.

Question for the Consumer's Edge? Send it to ipenn@sptimes.com or twitter.com/consumers_edge. Questions are answered only in this daily feature.

Daily Q&A: How can I stop telephone fees for services I didn't request? 11/11/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 11, 2010 2:00pm]

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