The Federal Trade Commission filed today against T-Mobile USA, charging that the carrier allowed customers to be billed for premium text-messaging services that were in many cases fraudulent or unauthorized by the customer. The FTC accused T-Mobile of making it difficult for consumers to detect that they were being charged, and even allowing these charges to continue after it was made aware of the problem.
These “services,” which included flirting tips, horoscope information, and celebrity gossip, typically cost $9.99 per month.
According to the FTC’s investigation, T-Mobile refused refunds to some customers and offered only partial refunds of two months’ worth of the charges to others. T-Mobile customer reps often told consumers to seek refunds directly from the scammers, without providing accurate contact information to do so. (See an excerpt from an actual T-Mobile bill.)
While the FTC seeks a court order to permanently prevent T-Mobile from engaging in mobile cramming and to obtain refunds for consumers and disgorgement of T-Mobile’s ill-gotten gains, here’s what you can do now if you suspect you were a victim.
Check for unauthorized charges
Examine your printed or online bill and look for the Premium Services heading or section; it might be a subsection of something called “Use Charges.” The unauthorized charges typically appear on the bill as $9.99, but the sum may be as low as $2. These charges may have a funky company name attached to them, such as “Shaboom Media,” with an undecipherable string of letters and numbers under the service-description heading. Several of these charges might appear on your bill.
If there’s more than one charge, chances are this situation has been going on for quite some time. If you’ve saved old phone bills, check them too to make sure you get credit for all of the unauthorized charges. You can also check 12 months of bills by accessing your T-Mobile account online.
Demand your money back
Insist on a full refund when you call T-Mobile at 877-453-1304 or press 611 on your phone. It’s unlikely you’ll face any static from customer service given the FTC’s action.
Even though the FTC has already filed, adding your voice to the growing list will only help. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 877-382-4357.
Never, ever give up your cell number for a 'freebie'
Often, a bad guy needs only your cell number to place a charge on your bill. Crammer apps and websites typically ask you for your cell number in exchange for freebies that are actually subscription sign-ups. Don’t do it.
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