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Anti-Cramming Rules Protect You From Fake Phone Charges

The Federal Communications Commission has passed new anti-cramming rules which should make it easier for consumers to locate fraudulent charges on their landline telephone bills.

Cramming, as defined by the FCC, "is the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading or deceptive charges on your telephone bill." Local telephone companies often bill customers for services provided by third parties, such as long distance carriers and pay numbers. Crammers have been known to use this process to fraudulently bill consumers.

Such charges are often in small amounts -- a dollar or two -- and are described in a way that suggests they are for phone company services. They're often listed as a service fee, a membership plan or voicemail. Sometimes they're for 900 numbers and psychics that you may not have called.

Under the FCC's new anti-cramming rules, all third-party charges must be separated from charges levied by your phone company. This should make it easier to determine whether there are any strange fees on your bill.

Telephone companies must also notify consumers if they provide an option to block charges from third-party companies. The notice must appear on each phone bill and the company website, according to Consumer Reports. Telephone companies, however, are not obligated to actually provide this option.

Though definitely a step in the right direction, the FCC's anti-cramming rules are still a bit behind the technological times. They only apply to landline telephones. VoIP services and wireless carriers are not covered. You'll need to watch these bills more closely.

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