Cramming (fraud)

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Cramming is a form of fraud in which small charges are added to a bill by a third party without the subscriber's consent or disclosure. These may be disguised as a tax or some other common fee, and may be several dollars or even just a few cents. The crammer's intent is that the subscriber will overlook and ultimately pay these small charges.[1]

According to the U.S. National Association of Attorneys General, cramming was the 4th most common consumer complaint of 2007 in the United States.[2]

Types[edit]

There are various forms of cramming.

Phone cramming[edit]

Phone cramming is the practice of placing unauthorized charges on your home or mobile telephone bill.[3][4][5]

In order to prevent instances of cramming, certain members of the third party billing industry have implemented measures such as comprehensive due diligence screening and performance monitoring programs to identify and eliminate crammers. They have also launched a website to educate and protect consumers.[6] These measures are intended to protect consumers from unauthorized charges on their phone bill. Some companies offer consumer protection websites to help consumers better understand their phone bill and detect cramming as soon as it occurs.[7]

Web cramming[edit]

Web-cramming involves billing consumers for a web page they did not even know they had.[8]

This is most often accomplished when criminals develop new web pages for small businesses and non-profit groups for little or no expense. While advertising their service as free, these criminals actually engage in unauthorized phone charges on their victim's accounts. The most common scam involves "rebate checks." These checks, when cashed, transfer the customer's Internet service provider, placing monthly service charges on their telephone bill. This is made possible because telecommunications companies provide the service of being able to collect bills for companies that perform a service over the telephone.[9]

Preacquired accounts[edit]

Another is "preacquired account telemarketing fraud", cramming of unauthorized charges by telemarketers who have bought or obtained consumer account information prior to the telemarketing call, sometimes from the consumer's own bank.[10]

Fighting cramming[edit]

Phone companies like Verizon respond by removing cramming charges from a consumer's bill upon request, and will cease business with the company that crams.[11] Verizon, at the customer's request, will put a Cramming Block on the customer's account, that prevents third parties from adding charges. However, phone companies (taking Verizon as an example) sometimes get caught in cramming themselves. Verizon had been under the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) investigation after many customers had complained about mysterious charges on their phone bill. In October 2010, Verizon announced that it would refund up to $50 million to its customers to offset these charges.[12]

Notable cases[edit]

In 2005, the Gambino Family admitted to running a cramming operation.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Cramming A New Form Of Fraud, Officials Say - Consumer Alert News Story - WBAL Baltimore". WBAL-TV. 2006-10-05. Retrieved 2011-09-14. [dead link]
  2. ^ "Top 10 Consumer Complaints for 2007 Announced". WMTV. September 23, 2008. Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  3. ^ "Take a close look at your phone bill for mysterious charges - National Consumer Protection Week 2011". National Consumer Protection Week. 2011-05-20. Retrieved 2013-05-20. 
  4. ^ Tressler, Colleen (2013-04-17). "Is Your Mobile Bill a Cram Sandwich?". National Consumer Protection Week. Retrieved 2013-05-20. 
  5. ^ "Mystery Charges on Your Phone Bill". Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved 2013-05-20. 
  6. ^ "Cramming Prevention". Know Your Phone Bill. Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  7. ^ "Cramming: Mystery Phone Charges". Federal Trade Commission. 2009-07-02. Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  8. ^ "Fraud in the Internet". Computer Crime Research Center. April 11, 2005. Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  9. ^ Britz, 2009
  10. ^ "BEFORE THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION WASHINGTON, D.C. Telemarketing Sales Rule Review. SUPPLEMENTAL COMMENTS OF THE MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE. FTC File No. R411001.". 
  11. ^ "Verizon to police 'cramming'". Boston Globe. 2005-04-04. Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  12. ^ "Verizon to refund millions in 'mystery fees'". CNN. 
  13. ^ Kilgannon, Corey (2005-01-09). "Phone Executive Admits Conspiracy in Mob Fraud". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-14.