Tech Term of the Week: Cramming

Let me be perfectly clear from the outset, I am not condoning illegal activity nor am I suggesting that those folks who make a parasitic living by cheating hardworking people out of their money should be admired or presented as role models in any way. Furthermore, I am certainly not looking to be controversial with this particularly embarrassing admission: I’ve always had a grudging respect for scammers.

Connivers, tricksters, you know the type. The sociopaths that dedicate their lives to finding new and inventive ways to sell suckers a box full of rocks. I can’t help but be impressed by their complete lack of scruples. I guess that speaks volumes about me but hey, I’m just keeping it real.

This week’s Tech Term is cramming and from my introduction it’s pretty clear that this doesn’t mean studying for an exam at the very last minute. According to the FCC cramming is the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading or deceptive charges on your telephone bill. Crammers rely on confusing telephone bills in an attempt to trick consumers into paying for services they did not authorize or receive, or that cost more than the consumer was led to believe.

Ooooohhh, rascally!

The charges are often for non-basic services such as Caller ID or Voice Mail but more recently text message cramming has become popular on mobile devices. Slick SMS services will text you with an offer for their product but buried in the message will be an opt-out option. You will be billed for the service unless you respond to the text.

Tricksy, very tricksy

You know, crammers really do give con-men a bad name. Where’s the artistry? This scam shows no creativity at all. No need to lay on the charm, no elaborate rouse to gain the trust of a mark. Crammers simply rely on the majority of us that rarely, if ever, analyze our phone bills and just pay. According to The New York Times a U.S. Senate committee investigation into land-line cramming put the dollar amount at $2 billion a year. That’s BILLION, with a B.

Obviously an excellent way to protect yourself from getting crammed is by going over your phone bills every month and immediately disputing any suspicious charges. If you’ve been the victim of cramming you can file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission or the Federal Trade Commission if you see suspect non-telephone services on your telephone bill.

Cramming, your Pop Tech Jam tech term of the week.

Click Here to Listen to Episode 06

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