Cramming bill advances in Illinois

By Bryan Cohen | Feb 29, 2012


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Legal Newsline) - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced on Tuesday that the House Consumer Protection Committee has unanimously approved a law to ban phone bill cramming scams.

Cramming occurs when Internet users submit their phone number and other personal information for online surveys, prize drawings or free recipes. Weeks or months later, the consumers then report charges on their phone bills for services that were unauthorized. The schemes have left hundreds of thousands of individuals and businesses in Illinois with bogus, unwanted charges on their phone bills.

"Phone cramming is a $2 billion annual business for scam artists preying on all types of telephone customers, from residential users to small businesses, nonprofit organizations to government agencies, most of whom have never realized they've been scammed," Madigan said. "The only way to stop this scheme is by enacting a ban on third-party charges to our phone bills."

House Bill 5211 would stop phone cramming, which has persisted throughout Illinois and the United States, Madigan says. Third-party vendors take phone numbers obtained online and add charges to bills for fake products or services, such as website design, email service or identity theft protection that businesses and consumers never wanted, asked for or used. Estimates indicate that telephone companies put at least 300 million third-party charges on their customers' bills annually.

Madigan's office has filed 30 lawsuits to date against crammers, representing more than 200,000 Illinois residences and businesses that were victim to phone billing-related schemes.

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