$10,000 Bill… For Text Messages

The cell phone industry hasn’t exactly been shy about billing its customers for all manner of things. Roadside assistance… without your asking for it? That’ll be $2.99 a month. Ha, that’s nothing. Now one customer, Sean Clark, has been slapped with a bill for a whopping 10 grand, because his developmentally disabled daughter sent a mound of text messages to a “premium” chat line, which billed an extra $1 or $2 per message it sent out.Ironically, big texting bills drove Clark to upgrade his daughter’s cell phone plan to an “unlimited” texting plan. What he didn’t realize was that she was sending messages to a premium text system, the equivalent of a 1-900 telephone number. These services sent numerous messages to the daughter for a buck or more a pop, billed over and above any standard texting fees. The come-on: the promise of “romantic dialogs with ‘cool guys.'”

Given the back-and-forth nature of a text message chat, bills can skyrocket quickly. $100 an hour wouldn’t be unusual at all.

Clark’s carrier, Sprint, offered a 50 percent refund considering the circumstances, but the third-party services running the chat systems haven’t budged. He’s clearly hoping awareness will help his cause and hopefully save others the same headache.

If your kids (or anyone else) carry cell phones, remember that premium texting services are almost never blocked by default, and many carriers don’t offer a way to block them at all. Call your carrier and ask about blocking if you’re worried such a situation could happen to you. If it isn’t offered, you might consider turning off text messaging altogether.

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