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Telephone cramming: Why you should check your phone bill carefully

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Here is one more reason why you should check your phone bill carefully. Scammers can add on charges and you often don’t know its happening.

It’s called “telephone cramming” and it’s the placement of unauthorized, misleading or deceptive charges on your telephone bill. Crammers rely on confusing telephone bills in an attempt to trick consumers into paying for services they did not authorize or receive.

Clark Beermann's phone bill for his business has multiple pages.

“This one particular item kept showing up and that is where I found the charge they were sticking on my bill," he says.

It was buried below taxes and fees. And for most people who got targeted in this scam it ranged from around $13 to $40.

“In this case there were tens of thousands of cramming victims and losses totaled over $22 million," says U.S. Postal Inspector Andrew Wang.

Two scam artists, working through a middle man, told phone companies that various consumers and businesses had agreed to pay a monthly fee for their service—an internet directory.

“They were perpetrating a false billing scheme," says Wang.

In other words, the con artists were billing people who never ordered their service. It’s called telephone cramming.

The victims, most of whom never noticed the charge, included thousands of business owners like Clark Beerman who eventually complained to their phone company.

Those complaints ended up in the hands of U.S. Postal Inspectors who busted the operation.

“It might have been going on for a year; it could have gone on forever," says Beerman.

Two brothers pulled off this scheme. One was convicted of mail fraud and money laundering and sentenced to 30 months behind bars. The other was convicted of mail fraud and served a 20 month sentence. They invested most of their illegal proceeds in real estate, some of which the government seized.

The victims received only pennies back on every dollar they lost.

Sarah Panko

Sarah is the anchor/ producer for News Three First Edition at 5/4 central time. She also brings you the latest Consumer Reports on the Nightwatch at 11/10 central. More>>

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