If you are not familiar with the telecom industry you may not know about cramming. Cramming is the unauthorized implementation of 3rd party charges on your phone bill. These charges are for fictitious services that have no bearing on the service you receive from your carrier. It is a pure scam. How do they get away with it then? The telecommunications act of 1996 opened the door to allow 3rd party scam artists to incur charges on business and consumer’s phone bills. Crammers took advantage of this billing process and loopholes in the telecom act and developed back-door methods of implementing bogus charges on your phone bill that make
them millions for basically doing nothing.
This is how the moneymaking scam works. The crammer creates a bogus but legitimate sounding service such as “internet media services” that gets tacked onto your bill. When examining phone bills in a large company, you might not think twice when you see charges like that. Moreover, you might be thinking, “maybe my IT department included this service through our carrier for a specific reason” and not want to cancel anything that may cause havoc within your company. And that is exactly what the crammers prey on – your fear of the unknown and that canceling their bogus services will disrupt your business operations.
Many of the charges are cleverly designed to look legitimate and range from $1.99 per month to often as high as over $100 per month. It is those seemingly nominal amounts that are purposefully priced so that you may not even think twice about them, and continue to pay. After all, have you seen all of the line items and surcharges and taxes that some bills include?
The crammers use 3rd party billing services to facilitate their charges to customers. These 3rd party billers may show up on your telephone bill as “Enhanced Billing Services Inc (ESBI),” for example. These companies bill on behalf of the crammers. Keep in mind that these are the 3rd party (middlemen) who facilitate or pass-on the charges to you, they are not the actual crammers but they know full well what is occurring. But remember, the people answering the phone when you call are not the actual scam artists, so use tact and patience.
How To Fix It… Completely
So how can you handle crammers and effectively get refunds and get through all of the roadblocks the crammers will throw at you as you try to obtain justice? Look carefully at your phone bill, particularly the last few pages of your local telephone bill. For Verizon customers, this may be listed as “Other Providers” on the first page itemization. Find the toll free number on the bill for those charges that you cannot verify and contact the 3rd party biller who bills on behalf of the phone crammer. Ask them for the number to the particular crammer they are billing on behalf of, you have a right to this information. Then call the crammer.
Keep in mind that they’ll often tell you that someone at your company signed up for their service. They will likely even provide an employee name of someone at your company, often your company’s receptionist if that is who answers the majority of your incoming calls. They are betting you won’t want to confront this person at your company to legitimize the transaction or verification. This is another ploy to further legitimize their services, another roadblock to your getting to the truth. State emphatically that absolutely no one at your company is authorized to make telecom billing decisions except for you.
Next roadblock, they’ll often reply that they have a recording or some kind of written record that someone at your company actually ordered their telecom services. This is often just a voice verification service and what was done is a call was placed to someone at your company in the past just to do some kind of phone number verification. That is all the FCC requires to allow them to legally get away with billing you!
Another ploy the crammer will use is that he or she will then try to throw you a bone, and offer you a few months telecom refund, hoping you’ll go away. Don’t fall for it, insist upon the full 100% refund of all back charges because they are illegally billed. If you are by chance turned down, first ask the crammer where to formally write them a complaint letter and give them the opportunity to take action. If they resist, inform them you’re going to send a documented letter, providing your information on the who, what, when, where, and how on cramming
case to the FTC.
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the mere mention of the FTC allows refund credits to flow to you from the crammers.
Protect your rights as a consumer, and, again, remember, for every refund the crammers give back, there are 100 more out there who just give up and pay the charges.
If you are in doubt about a charge call McEnroe Voice & Data at (800) 727–1607 and ask for the Customer Advocate Department, which can assist you in identifying and curing your cramming issues.