Illinois' new law cracking down on so-called cramming on landline phone bills goes into effect next month. Now, the Citizens Utility Board thinks the new law may have triggered an upsurge in cramming on cellphone bills. Cramming is the practice by third-party companies of adding monthly charges to phone bills without the customers' permission or knowledge. CUB spokesperson Laura Goldberg says a study they conducted with an outside research firm indicates that cramming on Illinois cell-phone accounts is growing faster than the national average. She says she'd like to see the new state law against cramming expanded to include cell phones. But Goldberg says it won't be easy, because cell-phone use involves so many third-party charges that are perfectly legal.
"So people can download a ringtone, people can buy a coffee with their phone. And those are legitimate third party charges. So we haven't really discovered the best way to pull out which are the fraudulent companies and which charges are fraudulent. So it's kind of a growing process."
The CUB study found that the percentage of third-party cellphone charges that appear fraudulent increased over the past year from 26% to 51%. Goldberg says CUB is inviting customers to their website to use their "Stop Cramming Center." It includes tips on preventing cramming, and steps to take if your phone bill is crammed.
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