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Fighting Hidden Cellular Fees

Those mobile devices that allow us to stay in touch with anyone anywhere at any time can bear some of the more onerous and outrageous fees.  Other than local taxes and surcharges, which still cause users to pull out handfuls of hair at each billing, there are a few items that might not catch your eye.

When the federal government allowed users to keep a single cell phone number, no matter where they lived or which provider they used, it made for an interesting issue. Cell phone taxes are based on area codes, not where you live.

So, if you moved from New York City to Denver and kept your original 212 area code, you'd be paying the higher taxes that come with a New York number.  Conversely, if you moved the other direction, you'd be saving money by keeping your old number.

Then there's the cost of upgrading your phone, say from a Nokia to a Blackberry.  Some outfits will tag up to $36 for switching, according to Bob Sullivan, author of "Gotcha Capitalism," which looks at sneaky fees consumers are assessed.

"The cell phone industry will distract you to say they're taxed more than all others," Sullivan said.  "But they do so much to confuse you when you sign up.  Worse is that many of these fees are not so obvious."

Sometimes it's not the cell phone provider but a business capitalizing on your cell usage and maximizing the take from your wallet.  You could be needlessly spending $10 a month on silly text messages from services that provides jokes of the day, prayers of the moment or ring tones of the hour.

"I spoke with one man whose 15-year-old daughter had signed up for a text-message dating service," Sullivan said.  "Next thing, he had a $10,000 bill."

Experts say you should evaluate your phone bill carefully and contact your provider about any charge you don't recognize.  Ask for an explanation.  Then find another provider if you're unhappy.  Pitting one against the other might provide beneficial.


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