What Is Cramming & Slamming?
When you hear the terms cramming and slamming what do you think of? Studying for a big test? Closing a door in anger? Though these terms refer to both of those things, in telecommunications they take on a much different meaning.
Cramming and slamming are both serious forms of fraud that telephone carriers will sometimes engage in. Over the long term these practices can affect you, the consumer, in a big way. Learn more about what cramming and slamming is, how you can prevent it, and what you can do if you feel you’ve been a victim of this type of fraud.
What Is Cramming?
The act of cramming is when a company scams a customer by charging them unauthorized fees. This act is very common and often customers will believe they are participating in a free phone contest or survey. Only to find out later that they have unfortunately been charged. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that nearly 20 million Americans experience cramming on their phone bill each year.
Cramming charges are associated with a variety of things. They can be tied to horoscopes, weight loss plans, celebrity gossip, or dating tips, among others. Cramming charges will appear on your monthly phone bill as non-descript charges such as “service fee,” “mail service,” or “membership.”
What Is Slamming?
If you have a landline still, you could be affected by the illegal act of slamming. Slamming refers to when a telephone company will change a consumer’s local or long distance service provider without their permission.
The term was coined by an AT&T consumer marketing manager in the late 1980s. The practice was considered a “slam dunk” for AT&T’s competitors who could easily steal customers from the company by faking consumer requests to change providers.
Is Cramming and Slamming Still a Problem Today?
Yes, both cramming and slamming remain an issue that consumers face today. Nearly 45% of U.S. households still maintain a landline and this line can be affected by slamming at anytime.
Cramming has become even more sophisticated and now consumers should be on high alert whenever they receive weekly or daily text services, strange emails, or unsolicited phone calls. To be a potential victim of cramming all that’s needed is for you to have an active phone number.
What Should You Do If Your Phone Bill Has Been Crammed?
If you notice a potentially crammed unauthorized charge on your phone bill, you should immediately notify your phone service provider. You should also contact the company that has illegally charged you. When contacting the company that charged you ask them to explain what the charges are for and explain to them that you did not authorize these additional charges.
If neither your telephone carrier or the company that charged you will reimburse you for the fraudulent charges, you should contact the FCC. Make sure to keep an original copy of the bill that you are disputing.
What Should You Do If Your Landline Has Been Slammed?
If your landline phone service changes without your consent, you should alert your original phone service provider. Tell both carriers that you would like your phone service to be changed back and that you did not authorize the change.
If you have already been sent a bill by the company that slammed you, you have up to thirty days to dispute the service.
Once you have started the dispute process with your phone company, make sure you also file a complaint against the slamming company with the FCC. As with cramming, be sure to keep a copy of the bill which you’re disputing.
How Can You Prevent This Type of Fraud?
There are a number of things that you can do to protect yourself from cramming and slamming. Of the two types of fraud cramming is much more difficult to notice. It’s usually hidden in your phone bill and is typically a small amount and can range from a few cents to a few dollars per month.
Follow these tips to protect yourself:
- Regularly check your monthly phone bills for both your landline (if you still have one) and your cell phone. Know who your service provider is and pay attention to any out of the ordinary or seemingly arbitrary charges.
- Ask questions about items that you don’t recognize on your phone bill. Due to FCC regulations your phone bill should have a toll-free number that you can call with any questions you have about your bill.
- Be careful when getting texts from random numbers. Use are caller ID app, like CallerSmart, to check out numbers you don't recognize for potential scams.