Ina Fried

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AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Dropping Most Premium Text Service Billing in Effort to Combat Fraud


Shutterstock / fractalgr

All four major U.S. carriers said Thursday that they will stop billing for most premium text messages, acknowledging such services had become a significant gateway for fraud.

Vermont’s attorney general, along with regulators in 44 other states, had been looking into the issue of unauthorized third-party services, known as “cramming.”

“While [premium text] has some benefits, like charitable giving, it is also a major contributor to the current mobile cramming problem,” Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell said in a statement. “We are pleased that AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have decided to stop the flow of money from the pockets of ordinary people to the bank accounts of scam artists. We’re hopeful the other carriers will soon follow their lead.”

Most of the carriers will still allow customers to donate to charitable causes, political campaigns or both, while ending most other paid test messaging. This doesn’t eliminate other text options, like voting on “American Idol,” which use standard text messaging.

Verizon is also discontinuing the practice, though it was not part of the Vermont announcement.

“While we don’t agree with all of the attorney general’s allegations, we respect his efforts in this area,” Verizon general counsel William Petersen said in a statement. “Verizon had previously decided to exit the premium messaging business because of these changes as well as recent allegations that third parties have engaged in improper conduct in providing premium messaging services to our customers. We are in the process of winding down our premium messaging business.”

Verizon said it will continue to allow text-to-donate programs for charity and text-to-contribute options for political campaigns, as did T-Mobile. AT&T said it will continue to allow charitable programs. A Sprint representative was not immediately able to comment on details of the company’s plans.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere took to Twitter to tout the move as a win for consumers.

“We believe in making things right for our customers,” he said.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock / fractalgr)

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