Cramming: a huge scam on your cell phone bill – check your bill carefully!
Every now and then, I receive unsolicited text messages to my cell phone. This is particularly annoying, because I do not pay for a texting plan, so every text I receive costs me twenty cents, but I digress. Recently, I received two text messages from 836-60 within seconds of one another. The first stated:
Lovegenietips Flirting Tips; 3msg/week for $9.99/m T&Cs: lovegenietips.com Msg&data rates may apply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel. PIN 0627
The second read:
Lovegenietips: You joined $9.99/m for 3msg/wk bill to cell. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel. Msg&Data rates may apply. T&Cs: lovegenietips.com
Naturally, this looked like spam to me, and I did not respond. Significantly, these messages were completely unsolicited. I never gave my name or telephone number to this “service,” nor had I ever heard of it. Like all spam in my e-mail inbox, I ignored it.
One month later, I received another message from 836-60, notifying me:
LoveGenieTips: Subsc renewed 1mo. 3msg/week for $9.99/mo billed to cell. Msg&Data rates may apply. Reply Help for help. Reply Stop to cancel. 888.725.5643.
Shortly after receiving the message, I decided to check my Verizon cell phone bill. And to my surprise, there was a $9.99 charge for “Premium Messaging.” At first I thought maybe that Verizon had accidentally put a texting plan onto my phone bill, but that was not the case, because I was still being charged twenty cents per text message. So I called Verizon to ask what the deal was.
Right away, the representative told me that the $9.99 charge was because “I” signed up for “Love Genie.” I told her that I had not done such a thing, and I had no idea what “Love Genie” was. She said that if I wanted to stop the service, I would have to text “Love Genie” back and cancel the service that “I” had signed up for. At that point I got upset that the Verizon rep continued to say that I had chosen to sign up for this service, and told her that I had done no such thing, that I was a married man who did not want “flirting tips” or whatever else the “Love Genie” might have for me, and that someone else (if not Love Genie itself) signed up for the “service” against my will and without my knowledge and that I demanded a refund from Verizon.
The Verizon rep told me no refund would be forthcoming, because I had chosen to sign up for the service by not texting “stop” in response to the spam message. She also said that Verizon wasn’t really the one charging me, rather, “as a convenience to me,” Verizon allows me to sign up for services by charging those services to my account, Verizon pays the charge, and then recoups the charge from me as “premium messaging.” Significantly, at no point could the rep explain what service “Love Genie” provided me (they had provided no service, just sent me messages telling me they were charging me money). Additionally, the rep admitted that anyone could type anyone else’s phone number into a form and sign them up for services like “Love Genie,” and that Verizon would charge the phone number account holder for these services. I asked why Verizon accepted this practice, and she offered no explanation. I asked for a supervisor, and she told me that the supervisor would tell me “the same thing.” I told her I didn’t care, and I wanted a supervisor.
As soon as I got the supervisor on the line, I told her the same things I had told the rep, and that I thought that Verizon was aiding and abetting a scam by allowing customers to be charged in this manner and then acting as though they can’t give a refund by claiming that they were not the ones who were really charging me. After arguing for a few minutes, she agreed to refund me the money and place a block on my account so that I could not be charged for “premium messaging” again (supposedly there are lots of services out there that use the “premium messaging” line on your cell phone bill to tack on charges similar to “Love Genie”). I also placed the block on my wife’s line. Why a block on premium messaging is not a default setting on Verizon accounts I do not know.
Based on some quick googling, it appears that Verizon is not the only cell provider that tolerates this practice, and that many people have extra charges for “premium messaging” on their bill, particularly as a result of “Love Genie.” For example, see this website, containing lots of complaints about Love Genie adding charges to people’s cell phone bills. It seems like many people have had the same thing happen to me.
Hopefully, cell phone companies will cease allowing this shady practice to happen. However, until then, the moral of the story is to CHECK YOUR CELL PHONE BILL FOR STRANGE CHARGES, as it’s likely that at some point, you could be charged for “premium messaging” without knowing it.
This sickens me.