The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers today of a new type of " cramming," unauthorized fees that were once buried in phone bills but are now showing up on credit card statements.
According to an FTC complaint, Ideal Financial Solutions hit tens of thousands of Americans with fake fees mostly for vague financial services like Debt2Wealth - for close to $30 at a time.
In total, the complaint says the company billed consumers for more than $24 million without their consents.
"It's smart to steal little amounts at a time because you are hoping consumers just don't spot it," said Mandy Walker, a Consumer Reports senior project editor.
The FTC says 20 million people a year fall victim to cramming, which until now had occurred mostly in phone bills.
"I found lots of strange charges on the various phone bills and upon investigation, I found thousands of dollars' worth of charges," said Susan Eppley of Decatur, Ga. "It ranges from, I think, $9.99 was the lowest charge and $49.99 was the largest charge…. I recovered, I think it was $1,400 I was able to get back. … But that was just for one year."
In this most recent case, the FTC said that many of the consumers targeted had recently applied for a payday loan or cash advance.
When they reportedly spotted the bogus charges on their bills, they called the toll-free number next to fees to complain. The FTC said consumers then entered an infuriating maze of call centers around the world.
Walker suggested consumers inspect their bills line by line and dispute any questionable charges immediately with the credit card company.