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 www.consumerworld.org.
“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.