Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mobile phone fraud - The accidental data charge and other scams

I experienced this with Sprint and AT&T alike. I now pay $5 or so a month for a the honor of tracking my son's phone use -- that includes disabling his data access.

Here's Pogue's expose
Verizon: How Much Do You Charge Now? - Pogue’s Posts Blog - NYTimes.com:

...Starting next week, Verizon will double the early-termination fee for smartphones...

...The phone is designed in such a way that you can almost never avoid getting $1.99 charge on the bill. Around the OK button on a typical flip phone are the up, down, left, right arrows. If you open the flip and accidentally press the up arrow key, you see that the phone starts to connect to the web. So you hit END right away. Well, too late. You will be charged $1.99 for that 0.02 kilobytes of data...

...Every month, the 87 million customers will accidentally hit that key a few times a month! That’s over $300 million per month in data revenue off a simple mistake!..

...Now, you can ask to have this feature blocked. But even then, if you one of those buttons by accident, your phone transmits data; you get a message that you cannot use the service because it’s blocked–BUT you just used 0.06 kilobytes of data to get that message, so you are now charged $1.99 again!...

“They have started training us reps that too many data blocks are being put on accounts now; they’re actually making us take classes called Alternatives to Data Blocks. They do not want all the blocks, because 40% of Verizon’s revenue now comes from data use. I just know there are millions of people out there that don’t even notice this $1.99 on the bill.”"
For the record, here's a list of the mobile phone scams I know of ...
  1. Early termination fees that exceed plausible costs
  2. The time eating pointless answering machine messages
  3. The "accidental" high priced data fees
  4. The surprise fees and taxes with just about any transaction
  5. The covert contract renewal with service changes
  6. Recipient pays SMS transaction fees
  7. The unusable cash card rebate fraud (AT&T settled with NY state on this one)
  8. Uninterpretable cell phone bills.
  9. Passive revenue from OAN Services and other cramming scams.
  10. Unblockable SMS marketing.
  11. Long distance interconnect fees.
Add them up and were talking billions of dollars in fraud. These scams didn't have to be planned out, all you need is fertile soil for emergent fraud.

See also:
Update 11/17/09: More on how complexity attacks are used by mobile phone companies (and, incidentally, by health care insurance plans).
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4 comments:

Unknown said...

John, nice post. For those who are tired of gimmicky charges and fees within your cell bills, I wanted to respond by adding a relevant (albeit unsolicited) piece of advice. We tend to think of wireless costs as fixed, but you can tinker with your plan to optimize its features to best suit your usage and often generate significant savings in the process. I know this firsthand because I work in the consumer advocacy division of the Houston-based company Validas, where we electronically audit and subsequently reduce the average cell bill by 22 percent through our website, http://www.fixmycellbill.com (and I'll add that 22 percent equates to over $450 per year for the average user).

You can find out for free if fixmycellbill.com can modify your plan to better suit your individual needs by going to the website. Check out Validas in the media, most recently on Fox News at http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/dpp/consumer/conlaw/lower_cell_phone_bills_072409 .

Good luck to everyone reading on retaking control over your wireless expenses.

Dylan
Consumer Advocacy, Fixmycellbill.com

Carrier Petition said...

PROTECTING FAMILIES FROM CARRIER CELL PSMS/CSC & DATA FRAUD SCAMS
Everyone must contact their Carriers today to Block these scams and Audit for Victim Fraud.
Insist Carriers block “Third-Party Billing” on your cell phones immediately.
Insist Carriers block “Cellular Data” on your cell phones immediately.
Insist Carriers provide audits of all “Third-Party Billings” on your cell phones immediately.
Inform the Carriers of their fiduciary responsibilities to comply accurately with your requests.
Visit this site: http://www.disnetinc.com/carrierpetition.html Phone: 1 702 421 3511.
STOP the victim cycle. Get support confronting Carriers: Email: carrierpetition@disnetinc.com

Anonymous said...

Gordon you are not alone. There are others with similar grievances.
see link: http://www.disnetinc.com/carrierpetition.html

Carrier Petition said...

IMPORTANT RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
April 14, 2012. The Canadian Competition Bureau
Sues Bell, Rogers, Telus and CWTA for Misleading Consumers.
Bureau Seeks Customer Refunds and $31 Million In Penalties.
http://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/eng/03498.html
This breaking news is the catalyst for government authorities around the world.
These authorities must protect citizen wherever and whenever they become victims.
On a world scale there are thousands of felons and hundreds of millions in Penalties.
April 8, 2012. Conspiracy Alleged in Mass Text Messages - Courthouse News
http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/04/09/45425.htm
PROTECT YOUR FAMILIES FROM CARRIER CELL PSMS/CSC & DATA FRAUD SCAMS.
WHAT YOU MUST DO TODAY TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILIES
Insist Carriers block “Third-Party Billing” on your cell phones immediately.
Insist Carriers block “Cellular Data” on your cell phones immediately.
Insist Carriers provide audits of all “Third-Party Billings” on your cell phones immediately.
Inform the Carriers of their fiduciary responsibilities to comply accurately with your requests.
STOP the victim cycle. Get support confronting Carriers: Email: carrierpetition@disnetinc.com
Fight Back. SEE WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY. http://www.disnetinc.com/CarrTOC.htm
Download a copy of this site’s information: http://www.disnetinc.com/carrierpetition.pdf