It only takes one click to become the victim of a scam.
Just one click, and:
- a virus lands into your device
- your private information is compromised
- your bank account starts slashing zeroes
- your data is out in the open
- the worst: your identity is stolen
Scams are not easy to detect. That is what makes them lethal. The damage might range from small to big but being compromised leaves you vulnerable to the same result.
But some scams don’t harm you significantly. You won’t lose a lot of money, or your device won’t be infected, but they still dupe you into paying more or adding some hidden charges to your bill.
It is called cramming. It usually happens when users are billed for their subscriptions. A small amount is added to their bill by the company or a third party as extra or hidden charges. The users remain unaware as they never approved it.
AirG Scam: A Typical Case of Cramming
airG is a software company based in Vancouver, Canada. It develops software, mobile applications, and gaming platform. Their products range from messaging to video-sharing apps to subscription-based gaming platforms.
Since their services involve subscriptions, users are billed for them. However, many subscribers of airG’s services have complained about overbilling and extra charges for the services they have never subscribed for in recent years.
The problem kept arising with users having Vodafone or Telstra connections. They kept getting billed for services they haven’t subscribed for.
When the complaints began to grow, the network services explained that customers ‘inadvertently clicked on a link that led to subscription’ or ‘they consented to the use of these services.’
The customers were totally unaware of these subscriptions because they were certain they never signed up for them.
The charges range from few cents to $5. Most were getting billed for airG’s subscription-based gaming and video platform mini-me. It is a platform where kids can play games and watch videos to enhance their learning capabilities and learn new skills.
But, when the number of complainants grew, airG addressed the issue. They set up proactive customer care and service and started processing claims to refund extra money to the users.
There were several complaints on the internet, and consumers continued asking their network providers why they were being charged the additional fee.
The airG scam, now largely resolved, gives some important lessons to learn for those who became a victim of cramming or might become one in the future.
Always Go Through Your Bill Diligently
What makes cramming an easy way to con people is that it involves a very small amount – sometimes even negligible. But, spread it out over several thousand customers, and you are looking at thousands of dollars.
Cramming also becomes easier because most people don’t see their bills very carefully and shrug the additional few cents or dollars and legitimate charges.
So, it is important to be aware of the services you are subscribed to and what the charges are. If you are billed even a dollar more from what you were told, ask the service provider for an explanation.
Be Mindful of What You Are Clicking
In 2013, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint against Tatto Inc., a business that sends customers suggestions, celebrity news, and amusing information. However, even though none of the users subscribed to it, they were billed.
They sent users text messages with random factoids that customers dismissed as spam. In one instance, their website told customers they won tickets to a Justin Bieber concert, and they can claim it by filling an online quiz.
Those who filled the quiz never got the tickets, but their numbers were used to sign up for one of the company’s services.
So, it is very important to know what you are clicking and where it is redirecting you to. Online forms and spam links are the most common ways for such companies to collect users’ data. In these forms, they add a lengthy policy that users have to accept to proceed.
Since people check the ‘Accept and Continue’ box without reading, they give consent to companies to sign them up for the services and charge them.
Know the Refund Policy of Your Mobile Phone Carrier
In case of any fraudulent charges, you have to reach out to your service provider. However, to effectively put your case, you must be aware of the refund policy of the service or app you are subscribing to. Here are a few noteworthy things you must know:
- What types of charges can you claim (overbilling, hidden charges, or third-party billing)?
- Do they return the money or compensate you in any other way (a top-up, discount voucher, or sale coupon)?
- How long do they take to process the claims?
Read the refund policy before signing up for the service. If you are dissatisfied with it, you may always choose another service.
Complain as Soon as You Are Scammed
The FTC received more than 2.1 million complaints of cramming in 2020. According to the FTC, as many as 20 million people are crammed each year.
In 2020 alone, the consumers lost $3.3 billion to crammers. But worryingly, only 1 in 20 victims realize that they have been crammed.
The FTC paid out $88.7 million to over 22.7 million AT&T customers who had third-party charges added to their bills in 2016.
This was the most money ever returned in a mobile cramming case by the commission.
In case of cramming, victims have two ways: reach out to the service provided and ask for a refund or file a complaint with relevant authorities.
The companies’ claim process is often too long and cumbersome. Even if the claim is processed, the return is not equal to what the consumers were charged. Thus, many people avoid going down that road.
They don’t claim their money and settle at just unsubscribing the services. However, the case of airG and many others in which complainants got their money back tell us that reaching out to the service or the authorities can help users get their money back.
The first step is to contact the appropriate provider and request a refund. Individuals can submit a complaint with the FTC if they do not recognize the claim or the company take too long to handle it. They will investigate the complaint and take necessary action.
Mobile cramming is an easy way to scam unsuspecting customers. However, there are ways for you to avoid becoming one of the two million victims of cramming; always know what services you have subscribed to and what the charges are.
If you even get a hint of over-billing or hidden charges, raise the issue with your service provider.