By David Wade, WBZ-TVBy David Wade

AMESBURY (CBS) — We know we should, but how many of us do it? Check every bill we receive, line by line? When one Amesbury family did that they discovered a “mystery” charge. They say they’re victims of “cramming.” That’s being billed for an unauthorized charge.

They Declared their Curiosity asking: “Can you help us understand what these crammers are and how to stop them?”

When John Marcin opened his last Verizon phone bill he saw it- a charge for $14.95 from a company called Total Protection Plus for some kind of fax service. He didn’t know what it was so he asked his wife, Judy, if she had ordered something. Judy said no.

Here’s the deal. If you sign up for one of these services you’re agreeing to be billed through your phone company, every month. But of course, the Marcin’s say they never signed up.

WBZ-TV’s David Wade reports.

But the service provider, Total Protection Plus, told us Judy Marcin did sign up. They sent us a computer screen shot showing an order form for the fax service complete with Judy’s name, address, phone number and birth date.

But Judy says, “I never saw that screen. Ever.”

Total Protection Plus says that whoever filled out the form was on a certain job search site, saw an ad for the fax service and completed the form. “I have a perfectly safe job. I would not be looking for one. I was never on any kind of job site,” Judy insists.

“At least from the consumer’s standpoint, it seems like cramming, finding something on your phone bill, a charge for a service, you never ordered,” says Edgar Dworsky the founder of

“Some companies hope that these bills will kind of go unnoticed,” he adds.

You can imagine how easy it would be to overlook a charge like this one if you’re not in the habit of carefully checking your bill. We found plenty of advertisements for these kinds of services on the web. All billed to home phones, no credit card involved. In fact, one of our WBZ-TV co-workers spotted a similar charge on his Verizon bill last month for $12.95.

“You always have to wonder. If a company is using a billing methodology that has the bill come through on your phone bill when the service has nothing to do with telephone service, why are they doing this?” says consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky.

Why does Verizon allow these charges on its bill? In a statement the company provided it said: “Verizon provides third party billing services as a convenience for our customers who do not want to receive separate bills from separate companies for telecommunications related services.”

Verizon also makes money on the deal, what the company calls a “nominal fee.” Judy Marcin believes someone stole her information and signed her up for the fax service. In a written statement, Total Protection Plus answered Judy saying: “If her allegations are true, this would be classic identity theft. However, it wasn’t caused by us…”

After heated discussions with both companies the Marcin convinced them to drop the charge, and they’re examining their bills with laser beam intensity. Something we all should do.

And if you’re worried about these kinds of charges, you can call Verizon and tell them to block all third party billings.

Comments (22)
  1. Robyn says:

    This happened to me a couple of years ago. When I called Verizon, they took the charges off without an argument and told me that when I order certain items online, my name & address are given if I don’t check off a box or opt out. I didn’t complain because they removed all of the charges although I know it was some sort of scam. I started with another phone company soon thereafter.

    1. robin says:

      this is happening to me every month on my verizon bill and when I call to have the charges removed – and its from a different co each time -they tell me it was done through an old email address i had with YAHOO .. while i have contacted yahoo -they refuse to shut that email address down because they claim I can not provide the proper id to shut it down. Now every month i have to go over my phone bill with a fine tooth comb – check every charge and make at least 3 calls to have fraudlent charges removed. Verizon claims to have put a 3rd party block but every month I find another charge. In my case yahoo is just as responsible as verizon as far as I am concerned.

  2. Tom says:

    That’s exactly what happened to us, though now that I see it came from a job search website, it almost makes sense. I’ve been unemployed since 2006, and have been using various resources to try to find work ever since. I use a free dial-up internet provider (NetZero), so when a charge came in on our bill for internet service, it was suspect!

    Verizon said they would take the charge off our bill, but it kept showing up in subsequent months. Always there would be the calls to customer service to complain that the service was never ordered and Verizon kept saying they would remove the charge, which they did not. Then, out of the blue, Verizon shut our phone service off. They now claim there is a $150+ bill, and they won’t budge on it, to the point that they have recently sent this to a collections agency!

    We have had the same phone number here since the 1960’s, and the phone bill has ALWAYS been paid in full and on time, throughout all the changes in company since “Ma Bell”. It was disheartening to have to change over to Comcast and not be able to keep the phone number we had for so long. Verizon lost a very good customer, to the point that when we switched to Comcast, my brother changed his service over also. We will NEVER have any dealings with that company ever again.

  3. PN says:

    I went through this with Verizon a year ago, a billing from an
    outfit I had never dealt with. By googling, it was easy to
    see that this was some kind of scam. While the article has
    them saying they do this billing as a courtesy, they told me
    they were required to pass on this charge, even after I made
    clear it was phony. Eventually it was removed, they told me
    it was likely to be sent through again, which it was, and
    only then did they offer to shut off third party billing.

    Somehow these crooks get hold of phone company customer lists.
    If they billed a few dollars, instead of the $14.95 in my case,
    they very well might have gotten away with it.

  4. Cynic says:

    BS Verizon does nothing “For the Convience Of Our Customers”..It’s a Scam,Verizon knows it a scam and Verizons ‘Nominal Fee” is their piece of the action and they damn well KNOW IT.This was known over a year ago and Verizon hasn’t stopped it. Wasn’t it the electric company that got caught the last time?

  5. Cynic says:

    Martha..I know there is no election coming up so there would be nothing in it for you but don’t you think the AG’s office should do something if only because that is you job.

  6. Robert S. McKittrick says:

    Something similar happened to my business. My receptionist received a solicitation over the phone for what turned out to be some phony service. She was asked some very basic information that required a yes or no answer, nothing to tip her off to the impending scam. When she was asked if she had the authority to make changes to the company phone bill she said no and hung up. Several months later a charge in the amount of $49.95 for “Tech Support Services” appeared on the bill. It took me over an hour and many calls to many different phone numbers all within the scamming company to reach an “authorized” person. When questioned, they produced a recording with my receptionist’s “yes” dubbed in authorizing tech services. It took me about six months to get the charges stopped and reversed. Verizon was not very helpful. Now when I get a call like this I immediately ask for the full name of the company and the caller and their phone number. I then hang up. If it sounds like something that I might be interested in, I will call them back. I NEVER answer yes to any question no matter how innocent the question might be

  7. Phyllis Haskell says:

    This happened to me last Dec. I was billed ?14.95 by “MY411” for unlimited operator assistance a service I would never have signed up for. (Just as the woman in your report said!) Following about 2 hrs. of phone calls: Carlos of MY411; Verizon customer service from the bottom to the top including all the recordings!!! I was finally assured the charges would be removed but that I would have to pay the original charge! I refused and took my case to MA Dept. of Telecommunications & Cable and got quick action-charges completely removed. Why can’t something be done to prevent this from happening in the first place?

  8. Jeanne says:

    This happened to me recently and I was told by Verizon that I also needed to call the companies making the charges to get my name removed from their list. I was completely shocked to find out they had my birthdate. I do think this is identity theft and they should be held legally accountable. In addition a public utility should not be in the ‘billing’ business.

  9. Kim says:

    I also had a problem with my Verizon bills. I had charges from ILD Teleservices & Membershipmth for $15 each company per month for ver 6 months. Verizon is still in the process of crediting me these charges. Not sure I would have noticed it on electronic billing though. Note to consumers, never assume your bill is correct. Always check. Mistakes are made all the time.

  10. Susan says:

    Last summer I received a higher than usual bill from Verizon, my Internet, telephone and television provider. Because it was near the the time of my first anniversary with my new provider I thought that the fees had automatically gone up. The next month’s bill was even higher, almost $50 over which I had been paying. I called Verizon to either cancel my contract with them or reduce some services. They informed me that I was being billed by 2 third parties for additional services I had ordered, a common allowable practice by Verizon. Because I am the only one to order cable or any services in my home, I knew this was not true. I was advised to call these providers to cancel and determine who had ordered them.
    When I called the provided numbers, I was informed that “Jack Splat” had ordered these services. One was for unlimited long distance dialing and the second was for some type of toll free long distance 800 number. I do have a son “Jack” who has not lived here for over 10 years. Supposedly, “Jack ” ordered from my phone and provided his email which was jacksplat@C895FM.COM, (This was copied from an email they sent me when I asked for confirmation about this order, name changed, tho). They claimed that confirmation emails were sent to that email address informing him of the new charges. Out of curiosity, I responded to that email and it was returned to me as an invalid email address and also contained an attachment that I did not open. I was billed for three months but was only allowed refunds for 2 months. I was upset that this had happened, I lost money and felt that I was scammed. I requested Verizon to put a block on my bill not allowing this to happen again.
    It did happen again! They never put the block on my phone! In late December, or perhaps early January, I could not log on to the Verizon Bill Pay site. Apparently they changed their site and passwords were changed. Frustrated because I could not access the site, I did not pay the bill. When the next bill came, I again had difficulty with the site, I called and learned the bill again had spiked! I was given a temporary password and was told that I had a third party billing on my account. I was furious! How could this happen again? I was given the number to call, “techno info” and asked how this happened. The person I spoke to said that it was ordered by Jack Splat of (my son’s address in another town) the email was That was my son’s address but again is not his email!! The telephone number provided was my home number! This person I spoke to said that the service was discontinued at Jack’s request on January 25th! I spoke to “Jack” and he is distraught thinking someone has obtained his identity. I canceled the “supposedly already canceled” account and was given a second number to call to obtain a refund for the month I did not use their service! They would only give me 2 months credit but I was billed for three months! This is such a scam and permitted by Verizon to un suspecting persons!
    I was so upset, I complained to my other son and daughter-in-law. At first they believed that I was a victim because I am elderly and “easy prey”. That did not explain why a different name, out-of-town-address or fictitious email was used to order these bogus services. Then he got his bill which had a $20.00 charge for other services! He felt the charge was because he paid his bill over the phone and the exorbitant $20.00 was the fee Verizon charged him for this service. He received the same charges this month and investigated a little more by calling Verizon. Yes, he was scammed, too, for a “web site and web site support” that he does not have nor did he order!
    I pray that you look further into this horrendous practice of letting Verizon accept third party billing, we are being scammed by these unscrupulous bogus companies! I can’t even talk to anyone at Verizon unless I answer a battery of “secret questions” correctly, yet they will let anyone place a scam charge on by bill! Verizon told me they had to do this practice because they were the only “National” company offering services in every state! They were insulted when I kept refering it to a scam. I had never heard the term “Cram” until last night, but it is a scam, never the less!

  11. Diane says:

    I too have been recently scammed, the company that got me for the last 3 months is Rocket Communications aka ESBI, I noticed it only because lately my Verizon bill has had only 1 page, this past month it had 2 and low and behold while looking at the bill, I knew something was wrong for starters my bill was high, then the 2 pages, I called them immediately and was told by an older man working for the company that this Rocket Communications has a tendency some how to bill consumers for items never ordered, He then claimed he would credit my acct, for the next 3 months, and for me to hurry and call Verizon as a 4th month of billing would be charged to my account in 3 days, I called Verizon gave them my cancellation number from Rocket and well my bill is due in soon so we shall see,

  12. Bruce Roberts says:

    After being Verizon customers for many years, we switched to ComCast a few years ago after one of these unethical third-party billing incidents. It amazes me that Verizon are so short-sighted to value a buck or two in commission each month over the hoardes of unhappy customers they must drive away due to this SCAM. I don’t believe any other phone company engages in this racket, and they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it either.

  13. Patti says:

    Thanks to WBZ for reporting this the other night on their 11 pm new show. I checked my Verizon bill the very next day. My bill is usually 2 pages (double sided printing) and originally hadn’t thought too much about it. But, low and behold, there was a charge for $14.95 dated January 19, 2011. I called the company and they wanted to verify information which included my birthdate and email address. I refused to give it to them and continued the conversation that they didn’t need that information in order for me to dispute the charges. According to the Rep on the phone, he told me I ordered voicemail service on January 19. Well, I did get a little upset with him because he didn’t believe me when I told him I did not order voicemail service. One, it comes free with my Verizon service and I opted out of voicemail service from Verizon when I signed up with them two years ago. After 15 minutes of bickering back and forth, he finally agreed to credit my account, which I reminded him that I never set up an account with them. I got his name and a confirmation number and was told that I would be credited for $29.90 plus tax on my next statement and the account would be cancelled. Now, the cost is $14.95 plus tax per month and the additional costs were the set up fees. Jeez Louise. Again, Thanks WBZ — it’s nice to see someone really sharing this kind of information with their audience.

  14. Nancy Hogan says:

    In September I noticed the charge for YPC network on my bill for the first time. It had been going on over 2 years undetected. I would had never found the error had I not had a bogus charge for $43.00 (more noticeable)veruse $ 15.00 on one of my other phone lines. Because of the $43.00 Bogus charge it caused me to check the bills for my other phone lines. When I noticed the error I contacted verizon and they referred me to YPC. I contacted them and they offered me a credit for 3 months. I was not happy with that so I sent them a written request. They offered to credit my account for 12 months which they did. I was told that was the best I could get. After reading one of the comments posted here, I called the Department of Telecommunications and Cable. A representative of the agency set up a conference call with UCP. We spoke with a representative and then a supervisor. Neither had the authority to credit my account. I was told to send them another written request which I did and copied the Department of Telecommunications and Cable. In less than 24 hours I received confirmation that my account would be credited in full. I thank the person for the post and for the station for doing the piece. I was still upset that I had not received full compensation and I did not know what to do next. Also,I do feel fortunate that I was successful especially because I did not pick it up sooner and it had gone on for so long.
    When I submitted my letter to YCP I also included the functions of the agency from their web page.

  15. Patricia Kelly says:

    The same thing happened to me. I phoned Verizon and they said I had either enrolled in something or said yes to something whicht I definitely had NOT. They removed the charge AND removed my name from third-party billing. Now any company who tries that again has to send a separate bill

  16. Steve morrow says:

    Thank you for recent news article. We checked our bill and sure enough we were hit last month and this month. We are now contracting verizon to sort this out. We will definitely copy the department of telecommunications.

  17. Karen says:

    Thank you, Thank you, David Wade and WBZ TV for doing this story! After calling Verizon they discovered I had 3 companies billing me, going back 1 year! I was very lucky to speak to a wonderful representative who took care of these charges very professionally and respectfully. Hopefully Verizon will be forced by public outcry to stop these companies from scamming us.

    1. Bruce Roberts says:

      Karen said, “Hopefully Verizon will be forced by public outcry to stop these companies from scamming us.”

      But people have been saying that for at least five years.

      I think it may take a seriously large class action lawsuit before Verizon will take any notice of the issues.

      Wh’s filing?

  18. CEO says:

    VERIZON! That pretty much is all you have to say to explain it. We got sick and tired of the billing games Verizon plays years ago. We switched everything away from them. Out land lines, our cell phones, our Internet access, and cable TV. Verizon is infamous for quoting a price and then within months you see things mysteriously creep up. They only way to beat them is to abandon them. I will NEVER go back to Verizon. I’ll use tin cans and string before I do that!

  19. christian says:

    Verizon telephone multiple times we get billed for services we have never used. When asked about it to verizon rep they were not happy. I was required to do this, make this call on and on… finally some charges were taken off…
    Same with Verizon TV…billed for programs not watched. Called finally they say we checked you never used these programs. Will take that charge off your bill. This months bill comes and yes you guessed it… they did not take it off and they continue to charge me..

  20. Laura says:

    We got crammed by ILD Teleservices via our Verizon bill. What a scam. ILD gave me the information for the person who had “authorized” the charges. They had my home address, but a different name, email address, birth date, and maiden name. When I checked the IP address for the email, it was at the other end of the country. How can a random person just tack on charges to my phone bill and Verizon never even bothered to check that not even the names matched. What a bunch of creeps. Unfortunately, we all have to be hyper-vigilant. None of these companies can be trusted at all. They are out to rob people.

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