There could be a scam lurking in your cell phone bill that's ugly yet so preventable.

As more and more Americans disconnect their landlines, criminals have migrated to where the opportunity is (the cell phone industry) and with them has gone the "cram." "Cramming" is the practice where crooks will set up third-party marketing groups that post bogus charges to your monthly bill.

Forcing people to pay $10 a month for horoscopes, celebrity gossip and trivia

Once the province of monopoly landline companies, the cram is now popping up on cell phone bills. Charges have been filed in federal court against two men who were allegedly part of a ring of criminal activity that focused on cramming, according to Reuters.

This ring apparently took in tens of millions of dollars between 2011 and 2013 by auto-subscribing people to text messages with horoscopes, celebrity gossip and trivia for $10 a month, according to prosecutors. How could they do this with no one noticing? Because the hieroglyphics of your bill are almost unintelligible!

Read more: Scratch Wireless, T-Mobile, Republic shake up the market for cheap phone service

Cram charges are often disguised with innocuous terms like "special services," "Internet advertising," "service fee," "calling plan" or "minimum monthly usage fee." A typical cram charge for a business might be $10-$15. For a consumer, it's more like $5-$10.

So what's the alternative to getting ripped off?

Be sure to go through your bill every month page-by-page to vet out any cram charges or better yet, call up your carrier and tell them to block access for third party charges.

However, there is a gray area here with teens on an "add-a-line" plan. Cell providers particularly love these cheap add-a-phone offers for kids that tend to price out around $10 each month. Why? Because the parent must accept responsibility for any charges that are incurred -- even bogus cram charges.

Read more: Sprint's new $20 'unlimited' plan is really just 1GB of data

Looking for some money-saving advice? See our Money section.


Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to put more money in your pocket, with advice you can trust. View More Articles

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