Be wary of cell phone "cramming" or face exorbitant billing
By Matt Barbour, Weekend Anchor/Reporter - bio | email
WALKER COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -- When it comes to dissecting your cell phone bill, it can be confusing. One Georgia man knew something was not right when his bill jumped hundreds of dollars each month. It turns out, he is a victim of 'cramming.'
Cramming has been around for the past decade or so, first an issue on land line bills, now cell phones.
It is when unauthorized, misleading or deceptive charges pop up on your bill and in this case it is putting a major pinch on this victim's wallet.
John Vanveldhuizen started a Sprint account 5 months ago and thought he would be paying around $150 a month.
"The first bill I got was outrageous," says Vanveldhuizen, who noted that it was close to $600.
One trip to the Sprint store and he thought his problems were solved.
"Next month, rolls in. Another bill. Just outrageous. like, I think that bill was 250, 300 dollars," he says. "These bills here, there are all more than $400."
Then after befriending a Sprint employee he was told that he was being crammed.
"He has good heart, is the only way I can explain it, or I probably still wouldn't have caught it," Vanveldhuizen speculated. "[I guess] because he felt so guilty, he told me about it."
The FCC estimates that as many as 20 million people are crammed each year. One study shows only 1 in 20 cramming victims even realize they've been scammed.
Cell phone companies are allowed to make extra money by billing for other companies, and those charges are then covered up on the bill.
The FCC says to look for charges for services that are explained on your telephone bill in general terms such as "service fee," "other fees," "membership," or charges that aren't explained at all like "minimum monthly usage fee."
Finally, you should look for charges for a service you authorized, but were misled about the cost.
"If I was going to waste $150, I'd do it on the lottery," said Vanveldhuizen. "At least I'd have a chance to win. I'm getting nothing out of this."
More worrisome, in Vanveldhuizen's case, not all the extra charges showed up on his physical bill. It was the large amount he was being charged that stood out.
Channel 3 contacted the Georgia Sprint representative, who told us that their customers can call customer care to discuss any charges on their account that they dispute, which is something Vanveldhuizen's done.
"I will get satisfaction," he stated. "Regardless of what I've got to do, where I've got to go, who I've got to talk to."
Vanveldhuizen has since switched phone companies, but was advised by Sprint to keep the line open until the matter is fully resolved.
In total he owes more than $1,000, although it should be noted that Sprint is working to get rid of those third party charges.