Spike in kids’ cell phone bills? Might be “cramming”

Q: My daughter’s cell phone number was charged for a monthly horoscope service that she doesn’t remember subscribing to. How can I cancel the subscription and prevent this from happening again?

A:

It’s important to understand how easy it can be to accidentally incur unwanted cell charges. Surveys, sweepstakes entry forms or 800 number calls to psychics or date lines can make a phone number vulnerable.

There is also the possibility that her phone could be a victim of “cramming”-a type of fraud in which third-party businesses sneak unauthorized charges onto a cell phone bill hoping they go unnoticed. These fees are often small charges-$2 or $3-and are added to thousands of statements.

Go over each line of your cell phone bill every month and identify fees you don’t understand. Then follow these steps to protect your family.

Keep cell numbers private. Kids may be tempted to give out their cell numbers to vendors who send texts about special sales or coupons, but they should avoid including their cell phone number on retail forms and contest entries.

Use parental controls. All of the major mobile carriers offer some type of free parental management tools, including content filtering, blocking, time and text limits.

Contact customer care. Block unwanted calls or text messages to your phones with a simple call to customer care or by accessing your account online. Some carriers allow you to block subscription services and phone numbers through your phone with an easy text message.

Register for Do Not Call. Placing your phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry can help curb unsolicited marketing calls and reduce your chance of becoming a fraud victim. To register, visit donotcall.gov or call (888) 382-1222 from the phone number you want to register. Once registered, telemarketers have 31 days to remove you from their call list.

Report suspicious charges. If you feel you have been targeted for nontelephone-related fees, contact the Federal Trade Commission at (877) FTC-HELP.

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