Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on Sept. 11. Volunteer today

Contests and

Driver Safety

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

Happy African American couple

AARP Books

Visit the Books Section

Enjoy titles on retirement, Social Security, and becoming debt-free.

Jobs You Might Like

most popular


Avoiding Fake Phone Charges

Don’t fall victim to fraudulent billing known as cramming

Cramming and other types of cellphone and telephone abuse stand in ninth position among the most reported type of fraud, the FTC says. Often, there's little you can do to prevent a crammer from targeting you. But the FTC advises that you can avoid giving would-be scammers an opportunity by becoming wise to some common ploys:

  • Enter to win. You think you're entering a contest, but you're actually giving your information to strangers who might be up to no good. Shady promoters sometimes use a contest entry form as "permission" to enroll you in a service.
  • Join the club. The ad says it's free, and in fact, the number you call to join may be toll-free. All you have to do is say your name and "I want the service." But you may end up enrolled in a club or service that comes with a monthly charge on your phone bill.
  • Free prizes that aren't. You may be told you've won a prize, but if it's a 900 number that you dial to claim it, the call itself might not be free. In some cases, you should have warning — every 900 number that costs more than $2 has to have a brief introductory message about the service, the service provider and the cost of the call. After that, you have only three seconds to hang up before you're on the hook for the fee.

If you suspect you're a victim of cramming, you should first contact your phone company — it should be able to tell you about the charge and how to dispute the error. If people there aren't being helpful, you should contact the FTC at or 1-877-FTC-HELP. (And, yes, that's a free call.)

Ron Burley is the author of Unscrewed: The Consumer's Guide to Getting What You Paid For. Have a complaint about customer service? Write to Ron.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Related Video

Harry Smith speaks with CBS business correspondent Rebecca Jarvis about confusing cellphone plans.

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


The Cheap Life

Jeff Yeager Cheap Life Ultimate Cheapskate AARP YouTube web series save money

Catch the latest episode of The Cheap Life starring Jeff Yeager, AARP's Ultimate Cheapskate. Watch

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Member Benefits HomeServe

Members can protect their homes with comprehensive repair plans from HomeServe.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can get cash back rewards on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Woman holding smartphone in city, Google map tool

Members can find discounts on the go via the AARP® Member Advantages Offer Finder app.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points


Advance your skills. Transform your career.

Explore your learning possibilities.