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BBB: Consider cellphone data limit protection

In 2011, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) received 38,420 complaints against cellular telephone services and equipment, making it the number one complaint category in the BBB system. Cellphone carriers offer features that allow consumers to monitor and, in some cases, lower their bills.

The BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota compiled the following tips after conducting a survey of major cellphone carriers in regard to tips on overseeing family data usage:

For AT&T users, parents should consider Smart Limits of Wireless, an online parental controls tool. Smart Limits For Wireless lets parents set limits on how and when their child can use their phone, including setting a dollar limit for downloadable purchases. As the child approaches the download limits, he or she will receive an advance warning notification. Once a limit is reached, another notice is sent that the service will be stopped until the next billing cycle begins.

For Sprint users, parents can take advantage of Sprint Mobile Controls. Sprint Mobile Controls allow parents to clearly understand their child's talk, text and app use habits. Parents can lock their child's phone on-demand or schedule locks during dinner, school or late at night.

For U.S. Cellular users, parents can utilize the My Account tool to oversee their child's data usage. The My Account tool allows parents to receive text message alerts when their data usage is close to the limit, as well as block data to a specific handset.

For Verizon users, through the My Verizon Usage Controls, customers can keep a tight rein on their accounts' usage. Families or individuals can control wireless budgets with monthly usage allowances on each controlled line for voice minutes, messaging, data and content purchases such as ringtones, games and downloads. They'll receive free text message alerts when limits are nearing and when they are reached.