Thursday, April 8, 2010

Scammers Charge Phone Bills - It Happened to MEEEE!!!!

I had an extremely bad headache today. And to be perfectly honest, I don't get headaches very often. It was so bad, I actually felt sick to my stomach and had to take an Aleve.

The sad part is, I had this headache from dealing with a headache ( disaster that is ) thanks to my phone company. So, let me explain.

Did you know that you can charge your phone number for services you sign up for online?

If you knew that, you are a lot smarter than I am. I had no idea. I knew you could use a credit card online. I knew you could use a debit card. I knew you could even pay for services with your checking account online. But, I had no idea you could have companies charge your phone number.

To me, it is the MOST bizarre concept to ever exist in the history of the Internet!

I looked at my phone bills today for the last few months ( they get paid automatically, which I have shut off today until these items get cleared ), so I hadn't noticed that I was paying around $3 a more a month for the last few months. In fact, if a group of companies would not have charged me $19.95 a month I probably wouldn't have been alerted.

But, I logged into my company today and found I was getting charged $20 from Talent & More, $8.23 from Agora, $15 from Employee Notification. It is ridiculous.

I called Cincinnati Bell and they informed me these were companies I signed up for and I gave them my phone number to charge.

WHAT?

I didn't give them my credit card, I didn't give them a debit card..I gave them my phone number? Do you realize that companies can bill it?

Cincinnati Bell told me I need to call each company individually to get credit issued and they could do nothing. All in all, I am out hundreds of dollars. HUNDREDS!!!

I called the companies, and they told me I agreed to the service. By the way, the service is to display your head shots for talent agents for modeling and acting to contact you. That made me laugh!! Yes, I am a regular Angelina Jolie, didn't you all know? I need professional head shots and hope to be in the next big movie.

Here is the Better Business Bureau report on the company, if anyone is interested in reading about this ridiculous charge. They are rated F. Imagine that!

Anyway, they told me they could give me one month's charge back. So, I asked them to tell me which IP Address signed up, because it wasn't me. So, they looked it up and it was someone in NY. Since I have never been in New York, I happily told them that it was not me and I wanted all my money back. That got them to issue my credit. I will be anxious to see if the charge actually comes through. If I had not brought up the IP Address, they were not going to issue me credit.

So, how does this happen?

After some research, I have found that it is called CRAMMING. The FCC knows about the issue, and you can read more about the issue here and file a complaint. It is a known issue where companies charge users phone numbers knowing they won't notice a $3 extra charge here and there amongst all the fees and taxes on a bundled phone bill. Isn't that rotten?

In fact, when I did my research today I noticed a charge that has been on my bill since last August, but was small so I didn't notice it. I assumed it was a new fee. I came to find out today that it was a crammer. So, I am now fighting to get all the money back.

Does this happen to others? Sure does. Here is a board where others are complaining about charges they got on their AT&T bills.

What can you do to protect yourself? Call your phone company today and tell them you want a block on your phone bill for any outside charges. They CAN do this. They did it for me today. My question is, why isn't this standard? Why is your phone number not blocked from the get go?

My main problem with this whole issue? Cincinnati Bell's desire to NOT help me. If charges come thru to your credit card or debit card, you can dispute them. Cincinnati Bell did not give me this option. From boards I read, AT&T and other phone companies allowed their users to dispute charges.

I am going to call Cincinnati Bell again and unless they agree to allow the charges to be disputed and give me credit, I will be leaving this company for better options. I hope to have some good news, since I hate to have a long standing relationship with Cincy Bell end.

The moral of this story? Check your phone bills item by item just like your credit card or bank statement. If there is a charge for $1 you don't recognize, CALL! Don't let them companies continue to CRAM unsuspecting citizens and get rich.



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22 comments:

Becky said...

How scary is that?? Wow! I am so sorry you have such a mess to figure out. I'm on hold with Cincinnati Bell right now.

Just Writing said...

Sorry you had to go through that. It's one reason I don't have anything on auto pay, I want to inspect my bill first (OCD kicking in). Hope you get it resolved soon.

Jen @ GBG said...

A similar thing happened to me with our Cincinnati Bell cell phones. My teenage daughter signed up unknowingly for several services somehow through facebook. Cincinnati Bell was not helpful at all. We did end up getting our money back from the services when I mentioned that she was a minor and did not have authorization (and I would fight it to the fullest extent of the law). We are now Verizon customers!

Danielle said...

Happened to us too. At&t took care of it. We were doing some quizzes on facebook and it wanted to send the quiz result to you through a text message on your phone. BAM! All of a sudden, extra charges on our phone bill. It should be illegal. That's a great idea to ask about the IP address though.

At least you're organized enough to get it all figured out. But geesh, definitely a headache. Anything like that is a headache. I've had my identity theft on my check card like 6 times in two years. That's been a nightmare too. It happens so fast, I don't find out until my account is overdrawn and a couple thousand is gone. Luckily the bank takes care of it fairly quickly, but it's still an awful stressful situation.

flemishe said...

THANK YOU for posting about this! I just checked my phone bill and I have been getting unauthorized charges for the last 7 months!! I know, I know, I should have been looking at them closer, but I pay online and got lazy I guess.
OAN is the company, and there are a ton of complaints about them. AT&T refunded the charges because the company just wanted to give me the runaround.

Anonymous said...

This happened to us several months ago, too. I had a charge from a company I had never heard of on my cell phone bill. (We use Alltel.) Thankfully I caught it right away, and they refunded our money. But after reading your post I've decided to file a complaint. I think we all need to do this to stop this crazy cramming!

Janell said...

This same thing happened to me with Cincinnati Bell. They did credit it back to me, but I too thought this is crazy. Thankfully, we also got it blocked.

Andrea said...

I am so sorry this happened to you. Thank you for letting us all know how to protect ourselves. I hope it gets resolved soon.

Jess said...

The way facebook gets those charges on your phone is because of those "To see this picture, become a fan!" pages and you become a fan and then you have to invite 50% of your friends, but if you dont, you can verify you are human by doing an IQ test or a personality test or something like that. At the end of said test, you enter in your phone number for results. This gives the scammer access to charge your phone number with charges. Lame, huh?

I wonder if what happened with the headshot thing is that someone in NYC needed to get headshots done but didn't want to put in their real number so they put yours in instead! I'm sure the company ended up being a scam anyway, but they figure no harm no foul!

Another thing that you should do is call your cell service and block premium text messaging. This is for those companies that charge like 9.99 a month for you to use their service and it just continues on your bill forever. I had one show up on mine (I scour mine every month because I have to reprimand download-addicts) and it was a company we'd never heard of! Crazy.

We really shouldn't be wondering why these companies exist... that part is obvious. I want to know how they talk people into working for them! I have been having a company calling me asking for "verification" of my credit card number so they can send a gas card that I got with a purchase. I never made a purchase, there is no gas card, and I don't know how they got my last 4 digits of my card OR my phone number. Annoying.

Also - as a heads up, I hear you need to add your cell numbers to do not call lists now too!

Carrie @ Moneysavingmethods.com said...

Jess,

Good to know. Thankfully I don't do anything on Facebook except post updates. I refuse to play any games, click on applications, etc because I had heard that very thing.

But, you are correct. What is there to stop someone else from filling it out and using my phone number at the end? This just means anyone who has a public phone number is at risk. How scary is that? Ugh!

Ginger said...

I am sitting here with my jaw on the floor. We frugalistas don't think in the same terms as scrammers or crammers and who would have dreamed this up other than some unscrupulous person(s).

We have been totally cellular for more than a decade now and we insist on detailed billing and always have. It is all too easy to think that some large corporation will protect us if we do business with them but we are just one of millions of accounts and we need to do just as you said.

I am going to share your post with my readers tomorrow (company today) and educate them about what is going on. I am going to ask them to come and read the comments too. Many times you get more info in comments than you can imagine - like today.

Thanks for sharing all of this info. It is very important that we all act on this since we are online all the time.

Ginger
AttentionTargetShoppers.com

JenMarie said...

OH wow, thanks for bringing this to light!

honestnicewoman said...

My daughter signed up for something and I got charged a monthly fee. I put a password on my account and blocked charges as well.

At my job, a fee had been on the phone bill for about year and half before I started. I got curious about it one day and inquired. It was a Cram. I got a couple months back but could do nothing about all the other charges that had gone on for several years. The other secretary never questioned the $15 fee. I can't imagine how much money these crammers rack up nationwide!

Anonymous said...

Users like you crack me up. They expect the phone company to be responsible for their mistake of not reading everything. Now there are some companies that do not disclose all the information that you are signing up for a monthly recurring charge, although 90% of them do (If you read what you’re signing up for!)
The IP part is bogus and would not matter here. Signing up through a third party website and then the charges are submitted through their server which would show up as NY or CA or where ever their server is.
The same thing happens when signing up for ringers, screensavers and other thing on the internet. There is a disclosure in small fine print that you will be charged whatever this company wants for the service you signed up for. Then this company sends the charge to your telephone company who then passes it on to you. Why would the telephone company be responsible for someone not paying attention what they are signing up for?
Yes there are a lot of customers out there being charged millions if not billions for this because they do not read the fine print. They see something they like; they think it is a onetime charge because they do not read the small print.
No, I do not work for Bell or AT&T, although I have taken calls in a center on this before. I have gone to many of these sites with the customer on the phone and pointed exactly where it states that they will receive a MRC for this service. So before all of you start on a witch hunt and start calling your telephone companies, make sure that you are not at fault for not reading and being click happy for instant gratification because you found what you wanted.
BTW – from what I understand the author of this site will most likely delete my post, so be it. I wanted to voice the other side of the story. These charges are like other contracts, if you do not read the Terms and Condition (TC) of what you are signing up for you may end up paying money for services you really did not want. I myself am guilt of just clicking through the TC for many things online because we assume they are all the same.

TriNi said...

Sounds like such a hassle! I'm so sorry this happened to you! This actually happened to me once as well. I saw a strange service on my regular house phone bill that I KNOW I didn't sign up for. It was for an "email inbox" lol. Why on earth would I pay for an email inbox when I could create on online on hotmail or yahoo for free! I had to call my phone company who also said there was nothing they could do as well.

After researching this "company" online, I found that alot of other people were getting scammed as well. I called the company itself, just to have them tell me in less than 5 seconds, that the charges would be removed. Get this, they didn't even ask my phone number or name etc.. lol how the heck would they know who to remove the charges from!!! LOL.

I then called my phone company again and had them BLOCK all miscellaneous charges from my bill and that tend to do the trick. I did end up losing $14.99 for that month I paid, cuz I never got back the credit, but at least it took care of the problem.

Now I pay extra attention to anything I fill out online, and I definitely read and reread my phone bill when I get it!

TriNi @ Make Money Online Free

Jen said...

This happened to me once on my home phone bill (ATT) for something called OAN (I think). I'm positive it was nothing I ever signed up for, I called AT&T and thankfully they were helpful and reversed the charges. It was only on 2 bills (I shouldn't say "Only", but it could have been worse I guess), and I was able to put a block on outside charges after that. Hope you get it resolved Carrie!

Mary Beth said...

Dear Anonymous (how brave, lurking behind "Anonymous"):

Fine print is fine print, and anyone can have an off day and not notice something . . . but of all people to accuse of not being careful! Carrie is forever reminding readers to read all Terms and Conditions, to call Customer Service to inquire if terms are unclear, and to keep careful notes of everything.

I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who have clicked or agreed to something without looking at all the details, but there are also people and companies who fish to find unsuspecting people and use their info without ANY type of agreement to make money. I've had credit card charges thanks to hackers that stole credit card info from stores -- no fine print there, it's called theft.

You're right when you say that many people aren't careful enough, but Carrie is certainly not one of those people, and I suspect many of her readers who are so careful with their money and credit are not either. They certainly don't deserve your disdain.

Nanny Dee said...

Wow -- so sorry this has happened to you!

Thank you for sharing your story and warning others about these charges!

Dee

Marybeth at www.babygoodbuys.com said...

Wow! that's pretty crazy, and I'd be livid with Cincinatti Bell's "no action" policy. That would definitely be enough to make me cancel my service!

Thanks for sharing. That's information consumers need to know.

Armil@home telephone companies said...

That's too bad! I have also experienced this one before and I feel more than headache. By the way thanks posting this one!

john4seo said...

Ebates Scam
no blocked numbers. can this be a phone bill scam in attempt to raise charges?

Ebates Scam said...

i'm with cingular under the family plan and i got an unusually high phone bill ... no blocked numbers. can this be a phone bill scam in attempt to raise charges?
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