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No more scam texts on your bill, say cell carriers

A premium SMS scam might look like this - responding would trigger a charge on one's next mobile phone bill.Devin Coldewey / NBC News

Ever found a few bucks on your cellphone bill because of some kind of texting scam you had no idea you were a part of? You're not alone — in fact, it's so common that there's a national effort to eradicate the entire idea of "premium SMS" services, and three of the biggest carriers have already signed up.

The attorney general of Vermont, William Sorrell, announced via the office's website that AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile would all cease billing for premium SMS services in order to reduce "cramming," or fraudulently charging users fees using such messages.

These services were designed well before the high-speed data networks we have today, and allowed users to, for instance, look something up via text, participate in contests, or purchase ringtones. However, in recent years, they have increasingly been used for scam purposes.

T-Mobile, announcing the changes, diplomatically stated that "not all premium text message (SMS) vendors have acted responsibly," and that customers should apply for a refund if they think they've been scammed.

AT&T and Sprint confirmed to NBC News that they have decided to discontinue premium SMS billing. Verizon is not mentioned in the Vermont AG's announcement, but mentioned to All Things D that it too was "winding down" its program for similar reasons.

Notably, these messages are also the way in which charities such as the Red Cross allow you to donate simply by texting a special number. These charitable services will remain functional.

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is