I recently bought a Verizon LG env Touch, which I use to compose blog drafts on the subway. I also put my sister on my phone bill as a "family share" plan, saving her about $40/month on her phone bill. I don't use all my minutes anyway.
I don't use text messages. I never understood the attraction. I prefer E-Mail. I only use my cell phone for phone calls and preparing blog drafts. (I'm still annoyed that the notepad feature has a 300 character maximum, but I found a workaround that involves using line numbers on my drafts and a PHP script that parses out the memo.dat file on the phone and sorts by line number.)
My sister does a lot of text messaging. I got her the 250 messages per month plan ($5/month), and she's using less than half. If she goes over, I'll upgrade to the next tier.
On my latest bill, there were two $9.99 charges for "premium text messages". I asked my sister, and she doesn't remember subscribing to them.
I called customer support. The two premium text messages were for 91097 and 654654.
That's another dirty trick. The phone bill doesn't say what the premium text message charges were for. You have to call customer support and ask.
I know how to use Google. A quick search shows that 91097 is a service called "Reveal Your Lover", where someone sends you messages about how to meet women. Other people were complaining that they were subscribed without their knowledge.
I searched for 654654. It's a service called "predicto". Other people were complaining that they were subscribed without their knowledge.
It's obvious that 91097 and 654654 are spammers/scammers. I bet that a lot of people don't carefully read their phone bill. I only noticed because I wanted to check if my sister was going over her 250 text message allowance.
My sister claims that she never signed up for these services. The possibilities are:
- This is a total fraud. Someone fraudulently signed up my sister for these services.
- A spammer sent my sister a seemingly-genuine text message. My sister replied, not knowing it was a spammer, and subscribed to the service.
This is a problem with cell phones. You can't reply to an E-Mail and then be billed something. If you sent a text message to a certain number, even as a reply, you can be signed up for a service.
I called Verizon Wireless' customer support. The representative was an incompetent dumbf*** who didn't understand that the premium text message was from a spammer. He said some bulls*** about "Verizon Wireless isn't responsible for third-party premium text messaging services."
I did configure my sister's phone to block premium text messages. I don't use text messages. Maybe I should block it on my phone also?
It looks like I'm stuck paying the $19.98 for two spammers. I enabled the block, but it might not take effect until next month, leading to another $19.98 fraudulent charge.
I E-Mailed Verizon Wireless to complain again. Maybe they'll remove the charge. They're a monopoly, so I'm SOL regarding these charges. Even if I drop Verizon Wireless, another vendor is going to be just as monopolistic and abusive.
If I had nothing better to do, and was feeling particularly angry, I'd sue Verizon Wireless in small claims court for $19.98. That would probably be a waste of time. I'd be giving up a couple hundred dollars by taking a day off work. In this manner, the State encourages fraudulent practices, by making it inefficient to pursue small fraud claims.
The two problems are:
- Verizon has a State-backed monopoly/oligopoly. They have the monopoly right to use certain frequencies. I can't start my own competing cell phone business.
- The State justice monopoly makes it impractical for me to pursue a fraud claim against Verizon Wireless and 91097 and 654654.
I enabled "block premium text messaging". I'll see if that works.
The State protects spammers like this from the negative consequences of their fraud. Verizon has a State-backed monopoly. I won't accomplish anything by canceling my service and picking another branch of the State telephone monopoly. All members of the State telephone monopoly/oligopoly support this type of premium text messaging abuse.
This story does have a somewhat happy ending. Verizon Wireless' phone support representative was a total douchebag. I made an E-Mail support request, complaining that 91097 and 654654 are spammers. Verzion Wireless gave me a credit for $19.98. I guess I "won" this round.
However, I still lost. I had to waste time and effort getting the $19.98 charge removed. I'm not reimbursed for the time I wasted due to Verizon Wireless' fraud. Suppose that only 50% or fewer people complain. The only cost is giving me back my $19.98. For the remaining 50%, Verizon Wireless and the spammers get to keep their stolen booty. For this reason, punitive damages are necessary in cases of fraud.
This is an important principle of corrupt State law. "If you steal, it's OK if you give back the stolen property." That is false. Punitive damages are also necessary, as a deterrent against dishonest behavior.