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A New Definition for Cramming

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RALEIGH — There was a time when cramming was something you did just before difficult exams. Nowadays, it is something that thieves do without your knowledge -- until you open your monthly phone bill.

The North Carolina Attorney General's office just won a $250,000 verdict against a company that billed North Carolina residents for 900 and long distance calls they didn't make.

Some Triangle residents fell for the "cramming" scam.

Josephine Riggsbee was charged more than $400 for international phone calls she didn't make.

In fact, the Chapel Hill resident doesn't even have long distance service.

"When I opened (the bill), I was just shocked because I knew I had the block on my telephone, and I couldn't figure out why they were charging me for overseas calls," she said.

She called the billing company, and told them she refused to pay.

That's when a collection agent got involved, and things got ugly.

"They were real nasty to me," she said. "They told me they were going to take out a lawsuit. They were going to come and take my home."

Afraid she would lose her home, Mrs. Riggsbee borrowed $200 and paid half the bill.

Then she called the attorney general's office.

Mike Easley won the settlement against a California company and a collection agency that ripped off and abused North Carolina residents.

"They would get calls from the company saying, 'You did make the calls. You must have Alzheimer's,'" Attorney General Mike Easley says. "They were very rude, aggressive-type calls."

That settlement includes $218 for Josephine Riggsbee.

Local phone companies will remove bogus charges from bills. But some of the "cramming" bills are mailed separately.

Easley says you aren't responsible for calls you don't make and he suggests contacting the attorney general's office about any questionable charges.

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Stephanie Hawco, Reporter
Robert Meikle, Photographer
Kay Miller, Web Editor

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