Mystery cellphone text charges hit consumers

Consumer fraud targeting smartphone users

 UPDATED 8:02 AM HST Jul 03, 2013
HONOLULU -

It's a deceptive little text message that could lead to big losses.

"You won a gift certificate at a local store, text back to claim your prize and the other one was text stop to stop receiving these messages," said state consumer protector Bruce Kim.

But even he is vulnerable to what's called "mobile cramming."

Those text messages appeared on his cellphone.

There are text messages of all kinds, including one that offers free music ringtones or wallpaper, but in reality could cost you.

 “A joke a day, your horoscope, celebrity news, you want to be careful with clicking on that," said Kim.

The problem is reply back and you could be racking up charges on your phone bill.

"It could be a dollar or $20.  It's unwarranted, unsolicited, unauthorized charges on your cellphone bill. The problem is people don't check their bills carefully and it may not be there every month. It may be there one month and gone the next. It's becoming a nationwide problem and it’s increasing in volume," said Kim.

The FTC is working with wireless carriers to resolve the problem of third-party vendors and these mystery charges.

States are finally wising up to what they're calling "unfair and deceptive practices."

Lynne Wilkens said she always scrutinizes her bills but had never heard of cramming.

 ”It sounds terrible. I do text, but I haven't gotten one of those, but I am going to be more careful not to click," said Wilkens.

 Kim says to some the charges may seem too "manini" to bother with.

 “It adds up. It adds up. The problem is that they are doing this on such a widespread basis, it is adding up to two billion dollars a year," said Kim.

Important links:

Federal Communications Commission website
File a complaint with the FTC

Important phone numbers:

Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection

Oahu (808) 587-3222 (press 3 at the menu)
Maui (808) 984-2400 (ext. 7 - 3222#)
Hawaii (808) 974-4000 (ext. 7 - 3222#)
Kauai (808) 274-3141 (ext. 7 - 3222#)

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