Are hidden extras on your phone bill?

HOUSTON If you are not paying attention to your phone bill, you could be paying hundreds of dollars a year for services you did not ask for and are not using.

The phone bill may not be the most exciting thing you'll read this month, but as Mike and Nancy Lotz found out, not reading it can be a costly mistake.

Nancy said, "We have started seeing a lot of enhanced charges showing up every month from at least March so far of 2007."

The enhanced charges are from other companies, but the fees show up on the Lotz's phone bill. The charges are from companies named ILD, Enhanced Billing Services and USBI. Each time a charge appears on the bill, it adds $12 to 15 to the total. Getting billed for something you ordered and use is one thing, but the Lotz's say the extra fees on their bill are for things they have never even heard of.

"It's important for people to know what is happening with their phone bills," Nancy stressed.

The fees have been for voice mail services, telephone platinum plans and even a credit repair service. Each time one shows up, the family has to spend time on the phone with AT&T to get the charges removed.

Nancy explained, "You can call the customer service department and let someone know these have showed up."

While AT&T has removed the charges, Mike and Nancy Lotz wonder about those who may not be checking their statements closely.

Mike said, "You don't see the credit until the next billing cycle, so they are working off of our money for a whole billing cycle and other people's money and I have a real problem with that."

AT&T allows companies to use AT&T's bills to charge consumers who order products. The Lotz family says they never ordered anything, and wish the phone companies would allow customers a way to block third party bills altogether.

"I don't understand why an outside company can add something to my bill and the phone companies act like there is nothing they can do ... when they are the one issuing the bill," Mike wondered.

AT&T officials tell us third party bills can show up on your account if you sign up for something online, like a contest or game or ring tone. You are supposed to be informed of charges, but consumers across the country are finding the charges appearing on the phone bill when they did not sign up for anything.

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