Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Check Your Verizon or Other Wireless Bill NOW!

Many of my readers know I'm not a fan of software added to a downloads if you don't read one of the setup screens and uncheck the option. This behavior has been accepted as a legitimate business practice even when the parasitic program blocks attempts at removal.
Large, well known company's like Oracle and Adobe commonly add browsers, toolbars, download managers even to required security updates. They receive a royalty on every successful installation which depends completely on users not paying attention.

Unwanted downloads isn’t the only business with growth projections that  take advantage of consumer ignorance. A number of company’s have established their business on providing ringtone services that we never signed up for. The only way I found out we were unwilling subscribers was by taking the time to read our phone bill. Over $20 was added to our bill for a services I had never heard of.  It turned out to be a subscription so if I hadn’t found it we would have continued to have it on every monthly bill. Reviewing old Verizon Wireless bills I discovered that we had been charged every month since last year.

The Verizon rep was willing to remove the charge and stop the subscription but hesitated when I said this charge as part of a scam.  During my first call the rep never bothered to review previous phone bills to remove charges while I could still reverse them. Apparently, by providing the billing of this service, Verizon receives sizable revenue.  So the phone company's don’t really care how these ring tone company’s obtain their customers as long as they receive payments for providing the billing. 

The Verizon rep did describe what happen. My wife received a text message welcoming her to a ringtone service and asked her if she wanted to cancel this service.  She never had any connection to this company yet, she had to select No on one of the screens or she was considered a new subscriber. The trouble is my wife doesn't have a smart phone and doesn't even know how to use text messages with her phone. She remembers getting some kind of unrequested message and that she routinely deletes text messages without reading them. Ignoring these messages apparently is the same as agreeing to their terms.
The service rep I spoke to today admitted that besides harvesting your cell phone number from services you give it to, they have software to generate random phone numbers and blast out text messages to millions of cell phones.  If they reach a valid phone and you don’t reply correctly you’re automatically a subscriber. We used to call these “War Games Dialers” after the movie with Matthew Broderick.
In the business world I grew up in this is considered deceptive, near criminal behavior. It doesn’t make me a Verizon fan no matter what other services I love that Verizon provides.

Apparently, Verizon isn’t the only wireless company allowing these scams.  The day I started to write this a friend alerted me to the same problem he experienced with Sprint. He didn’t have the same quick attention II had removing the charges and was fighting his $60 USD bill.
Doing just a little background I found my Jamster bill came from a company, Jesta Digital, LLC which used to be the Fox Mobile Group owned by News Corp. They have multiple services that go by the names Jamba, Jamster, Mobizzo, iLove and BitBop.  Apparently, I’m not the first one to experience a problem since someone has created an entire website called The consumer site contains many similar stories and information on a class action law suit.

Researching other ring tone services wasn’t as easy but eventually led me to similar websites full of complaints, class action lawsuits, patent trolls and behavior so obviously deceptive that many investors hid behind generic limited liability corporations. 

Ultimately, the responsibility falls with wireless companies like AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Cellular One, AWCC, U.S. Cellular and  for some reason Cincinnati Bell kept showing up. Sadly, these companies have not received enough complaints to stop their participation.  All we can do it let our family, friends and neighbors know to check their bills and tell their family, friends and anyone who will listen.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this important information. I am spreading it to my colleagues...and some 500+ students a semester!

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly why I use prepaid Straight Talk and still have the Verizon Network. I can't see any difference and have unlimited data, calls and messaging for a fraction of the cost, plus you only pay sales tax and none of the other taxes.

5:48 PM  
Blogger angiejoy said...

I had the same problem up here in Canada on my Rogers Wireless Bill. Jerks!!

8:52 AM  
Blogger bunnieknit said...

My husband had the same thing happen to him as your wife, sort of. He doesn't "do" texting and deleted them all frequently without opening them because he didn't want his phone "filling up with useless junk". But that's not how they got him. What happened was even sneakier. He opened an email on his PC that offered him a "FREE" ringtone download. Thinking he'd check into it, he clicked the link and found himself at a nice legitimate looking website with a button that said "CLICK HERE TO SELECT FREE RINGTONE", so he did. He picked one and clicked it and filled in the blanks then went on his merry way, having NO idea that somewhere at the bottom of a page in print barely legible was the most important info: "Selecting ringtone and filling in the required information automatically signs you up to our service which will be added monthly to your bill from your wireless provider Cost for this service is $9.99 plus applicable tax per month. You may call (phone number) at any time to cancel this service."(or words to that affect) When our bill increased the next month the investigation began, and it was finally actually removed from our bill. Not without a fight, though. Many, maNY, MANY phone calls to our wireless service provider, the number on the "FREE" ringtone website (which always went to a FULL voice mailbox ..... imagine THAT!), family and friends for suggestions and more than one serious think tank session about calling a lawyer, our wireless service provider (AT&T) agreed to remove it from our bill with the understanding that THEY would deal with the company themselves. They must have, because it stopped showing up on our bill, and we were credited for the amount that had been billed (3 month's worth of charges were added before we could get it stopped!) All's well that ends well, I suppose. The saddest part, to me anyway, is that my husband never downloaded - much less installed - any of their ringtones. He didn't even know you had to do anything other than select what you wanted online and they would take it from there and complete the process. He said he had wondered when they were going to install his "FREE" ringtone for him because it had been over two weeks when the bill came, and they hadn't installed it yet ......... :/

8:34 AM  

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