On the website is a form that prompts you to “claim your prize” by entering your name and address and confirming your cell phone number. When you enter your phone number, you receive a text message with a secret PIN. You type the PIN into the form and hit submit. Your gift card is on the way... but it’s not!
The “winners” found themselves unknowingly signed up for $9.99 per month premium text messaging service. The scam, known as cramming, happens when a company uses their cell phone bill like a credit card, adding a charge for services that they never knowingly purchased. This scam is so prevalent that the FTC got involved and shut down six providers.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT CRAMMING?
• Just hit delete! If you receive a suspicious text message, ignore instructions to confirm your phone number or visit a link.
• Read your phone bill: Check all charges on your phone bill each month for products and services you haven’t ordered. Some charges may appear only once, but others might be monthly “subscriptions.” Pay special attention to sections labeled “Miscellaneous,” and the “third-party” charge sections on your bill.
• Know how to combat spam texts. In the U.S., forward the texts to 7726 (SPAM on most keypads). This will alert your cell phone carrier to block future texts from those numbers.
• Ask your phone carrier about blocking third-party charges. Many carriers will allow you to block these charges for free.