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CBS12 Investigates: How apps drain your bank account

Lurking in the background, your smart phone apps are using up your monthly data allowance without your knowledge; costing you money and time.

Certain apps use your data throughout the day and night even when you are not using them.

BILL JUMPED 25%

Theresa, like many of us, often passes the time on her smart phone.

"I just downloaded the Yahtzee app, so I am playing Yahtzee with strange people I don't know," she said.

Besides game apps, Theresa doesn't use her phone much.

So, she was surprised when her bill jumped 25% because she exceeded the monthly cellular data limit in her phone plan.

"There were all these charges that were specifically every six hours to the minute. Throughout the night, that I certainly wasn't using on my phone," she said.

Theresa isn't alone.

A 2015 Pew Research study shows a third of smart phone users sometimes reach their maximum amount of data.

27 percent say their bills can be higher than expected.

APPS RUNNING IN THE BACKGROUND

Casey Spigel of Forever Wireless sells and repairs smart phones.

He said customers often complain they go over their data limit, and the usual reason? Snapchat.

Other big data users are apps for directions, videos and the alarm that wakes you up every morning.

To perform these many tasks at once and keep apps up to date with the newest information, your smart phone uses background processing.

Avi Rubin is a computer science professor.

"The phone definitely uses data when you're sleeping and when you are not using the phone," he said.

And as apps run in the background, you may not see your data usage growing until you see your bill.

WHAT TO DO

You can restrict background processing, and here's how.

On Android and iPhones, go to settings and select an app.

Then use your finger to swipe and turn off your cell data.

You can also block apps from using cell data by turning off Wi-Fi assist.

It uses data when a Wi-Fi signal isn't strong enough.

So make sure you are using your home, work or school Wi-Fi, as often as, possible.

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