Cellphone 'Cramming' Fees Double in 2012

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Cellphone "cramming" fees charged to Illinois phone bills have nearly doubled since last year, and this trend could cost U.S. customers up to $59 million per year.

New research by Validas suggests that scam artists target Illinois wireless callers as cellphone commerce thrives and state legislation eliminates cramming on landline bills, according to the Citizens Utility Board.

Cramming involves third-party companies that "cram" charges onto phone bills for services that customers never ordered or received, CUB said. A new Illinois law bans most third-party charges from landline bills, but these protections do not extend to wireless customers.

However, the Federal Communications Commission is now considering tougher cellphone rules.

The research by Validas reviewed nearly 5 million lines nationwide and compared two years of data, from 2010-12.

Key findings include an increased percentage in fraudulent charges from about 26 percent to 51percent, and a national rate increase from 39 percent to 44 percent. Cramming charges averaged $5.10 per month nationally. When the data is applied to the nation's 321.7 million wireless subscribers, this scam could cost callers up to $59 million per year.

Crammers gain access to bills through text messages claiming prize winnings, ringtone downloads and other phone "extras."

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