Get a Lower Cell Phone Bill with this One Secret Tip

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

If you want a lower cell phone bill, I can share a quick tip to help you achieve just that. First, some background.

I called my cell phone provider to report a problem with my phone yesterday. While we were finding a remedy to the problem, he looked over my bill. He saw that we had been charged for downloading ringtones and games. When I told him that we didn’t authorize any downloads, he gave me some startling information.

He told me that unscrupulous vendors offer “free ringtones” and in the small print, explain that there are charges. The gentleman from the cell phone company went on to tell me that once you get these messages, if you don’t respond “STOP” they may charge you for their downloads – even if you don’t accept their offer. I don’t remember any ringtone offer, but I get “mortgage with bad credit” offers all the time. Since I don’t need a mortgage and I don’t have bad credit, I just delete the offer – but that’s a mistake when it comes to the cell phone.

If you don’t affirmatively reject the offer, they’ll start charging you. This practice wasn’t as expensive as many debt relief scams, but it seems just as rotten.

The nice cell phone employee told me that for $4.95 a month, the cell phone company would allow me to put controls on the plan. Once I had those controls in place, these thieving download companies wouldn’t be able to exact their rotten scheme any longer.

To be honest, I was about to order the service, but then I stopped to think. I suggested that it wasn’t right that the cell phone company allow these companies to charge me for something I didn’t expressly request. I went on to suggest that maybe the cell phone company does this so they can sell their $4.95/month solution. Having riled myself up sufficiently, I asked if there was any way to stop this practice without paying. He said there was a way but he didn’t recommend it.

He told me that he could disable “short code texting” and that would stop these companies dead in their tracks. The reason he was against this solution was because disabling short code globally would bar legitimate vendors from texting me too. I told him that legitimate companies don’t engage in these activities and I don’t care about getting texts from my bank or insurance companies or airlines. I can live without it.

Bottom line? The agent disabled “short code” texting, and my problem is solved. If you want to protect yourself and have a lower cell phone bill, call your carrier and tell them to get rid of “short code” texting.

Have you been taken advantage of by these “free download” offers? What did you do about it? Did you also disable your short code text?



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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

krantcents August 19, 2011 at 1:41 PM

I have texting and data blocked on my phone for free. I am probably the last one standing who only uses his cell phone for calls!


Neal Frankle August 19, 2011 at 3:47 PM

how did you get that all blocked for free? is it just part of your plan or did you have to do something special?


Erik August 19, 2011 at 5:39 AM

Not all short code texts are in fact bad. For instance I get my boarding passes sent to me by Delta via a short code number.

I agree this system seems broken, but I also agree with the cell rep trying to steer you away from this. It’d be like blocking all 800/888 numbers to avoid telemarketers.

Here’s info on how to report those obnoxious companies (I’ve reported several and they stop) –


Neal Frankle August 19, 2011 at 8:23 AM

Great job Erik. I realized that I won’t get the texts from airlines but it seemed a decent trade off . Anyway, thanks for the cool link.


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