What is Cramming and How to Avoid it?

How to Avoid Cramming?

Have you ever seen a charge appear on your telephone bill for a voice mail or internet download, when you know that you have not ordered this service. The chances are that you have been crammed. I received a billing for these services included in my monthly AT&T statement. The charge was $7.42 and was going to be easily overlooked if my monthly statement had not always been the same. I called AT&T, received a credit, the problem was solved and life moved on. Later, though, I dug around the internet to find out how can something just show up on my statement and was shocked to find out that I was very lucky to have such a small charge appear once and get easily credited. There were hundreds of people who were crammed with different extra services they never ordered. These services can show under ESBI - the company posting the charges. ESBI stands for Enhanced Services Billing INC.,

Effective January 1, 1984 -break up of Ma Bell, third party billing was intended to minimize the number of phone bills, which can be local, long distance or 411 numbers. These three bills would have been sent to you separately. This, indeed sounds great, however it turns out that now everything from internet downloads, answering services and other so called enhanced services can be filtered through clearing houses such as ESBI. In other words, your telephone number is becoming a charge account without the security of a password or a signature.

How is this possible, you ask, aren't there regulations against practices like this. It turns out that there are not. ESBI's parent company, BSG, has twice been sued for the practice of cramming, and paid $ 1.9 million in a settlement with the FTC in 2008. Your best protection against cramming is to request what is called "third party block" which tells your carrier to block all third party charges on your bill. The following are the phone contacts for the major carriers, in case you want to contact them,

AT&T 800-288-2747

Comcast 800-266-2278

Verizon 800-837-4966


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