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Saturday
Mar192011

WOW! I'm Victim of the Text Messaging Scams!

After writing two articles on the scumbags who run text message fraud schemes, it occurred to me that I never check my AT&T phone bill - what if I'm one of the people that Jason Hope and his elaborate text messaging scams is affecting?

So I decided to check my online bills. checking my latest bill, sure-enough, I found a subscription charge of $9.99: 

It's worth noting that above information is at the VERY BOTTOM OF MY 38 PAGE BILL! I was blown away. Here I am feeling sorry for the millions of people who are falling for these scams and not noticing the charges on their bill and it turns out, I'm one of the suckers!

How far back did this go? I checked every one of my online bills all the way back to January of 2010. The subscription charge by these scumbags started on my May 2010 billing cycle:

$9.99 each month for May, June, July, August, September, August, November, December, January (2011) and February. A total of $99.90 of charges that had gone unnoticed on MY BILLS! Unbelievable.

I got on the phone with AT&T and as I write this article, I've been on the phone with them for a total of 1 hour and 29 minutes. I'm currently on hold. Here is how my interactions with AT&T went: 

  • Michael, the first Customer Service Rep has been a victim of these scams himself. He sounded like a young guy in his 20s. He started explaining that "I agree it's a scam" but then he started to blame himself for when he was scammed saying "I must have signed up for it when I applied for some scholarships and I didn't read the fine print." I was blown away. Michael seemed to blame himself for the scam! I couldn't believe what I was hearing. He went ahead and refunded 2 months of charges for me, but he also said that they couldn't go beyond 3 months. I then asked what we need to do to stop this company from charging anybody else - ever! He said there was nothing they could do. I asked if they have a fraud department and they do. Michael transferred me to the fraud department.
  • Cory in the Fraud department, whom I must have just woken up, explained to me that there was nothing he could do about text messaging fraud. His fraud department was to address issues that was about falsely created cell phone accounts, not fraudulent text messages. He then proceeded to transfer me back to customer service because he said "if customer service can't help you, nobody can!"
  • This time around, I got a more sympathetic young girl, Angelique, in customer service. She loved the fact that I was trying to stop this scam from affecting all of AT&T's customers. In fact, she proceeded to refund me all 10 months worth of charges. She did inform me that there was not much she could do about stopping the scams, but after some encouragement from me that "if we don't stop it, who will?" she agreed to explain the situation to her boss and see where it would go.
  • Rebecca was Anjelique's boss. She was not on board with our plans. She explained to me that they were "already investigating this," which turned out to be a bunch of BS as it was later confirmed by Rebecca's boss. There is no investigation that my complaints (or anybody else's for that matter) has triggered. After several minutes of Rebecca explaining to me that it's out of her hands, she agreed to transfer me to her boss.
  • Jennifer was Rebecca's boss. She was determined to be my last stop. She put her foot down that there is nothing AT&T can do about such fraudulent charges, except to credit them back to customers who complain. Really? Really! My conversation with her was very informative and she claimed that AT&T does not make a single cent on any of the text message charges (update: I have confirmed through my own sources that claim is 100% false - the wireless companies can get up to 50% of the fees charged through text messages). That is completely bogus. The conversation is definitely worth listening to (Listen below). She also claims that AT&T has no way to stop text messages coming from known scammers (update: I have confirmed that too is bogus - in fact, the Mobile Messaging Association created just for that purpose).

The reason my call with AT&T took more than 90 minutes is because I was trying to stop "Textea", the "content provider" that had been charging me $9.99 for 10 months, from being able to continue to operate and charge other AT&T customers. That proved to be an insurmountable challenge.

I cut the full recording of my conversations with AT&T to just a few minutes with the last person in line, Jennifer. Remember, this is after they had already credited me for the charges. They no longer wanted to have anything to do with me. My exchange with Jennifer from AT&T will go down as one of the highlights of this investigation:

It's pretty incredible. I'm reminded, despite what Jennifer claims, AT&T makes hundreds of millions of dollars from the pass-through of such scam charges. So what is their incentive to stop the crooks? They have none. Just the opposite, in fact. They have incentive to let the scams continue and turn a blind eye.

I decided to investigate "Textea", the supposed "Content Provider" that has been charging me $9.99 for 10 months. AT&T could not provide me with any contact information for this content provider. Fantastic! Some Google searches revealed the web site http://www.textea.com. The site, which is in Spanish, provides a 1-877-889-1506 phone number to call. The automated system IS IN SPANISH! Are you kidding me? Pressing 2 gets me an English prompt and of course, there is no way to reach a human operator. When you choose the option to stop their subscription, the prompt switches back to Spanish. Nice! Nobody can stop these guys? Seriously? We just have to put up with this crap?

I can't help but wonder if Jason Hope and the network of companies that he has created to scam people are also behind Textea.com and I didn't even get an invite to his $500,000 party that I helped pay for. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to investigate these matters without the cooperation of the wireless phone companies.

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Reader Comments (9)

That is crazy. Thanks for trying to make the world a cell phone world a better place!

BTW: Jennifer, if you're reading this...try listening to the customer.

March 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark Parmenter

Thanks Mark. It really is crazy! I hope Jennifer does read this. She seemed like a good person - we need some good people inside of these companies to step up and stop the scrupulous practices of their employers rather than acting as a gate-keeper.

March 19, 2011 | Registered CommenterHamid Shojaee

If you believe this page Slamming, carrier freeze

You don't even have to respond to a spam txt message to get signed up. Some companies just sign you up without your permission, and supposedly, you could actually get signed up through a sneaky facebook quiz. (Could that be true?)

Verizon apparently lets you block such sign ups. All carriers should let you do that.

And then there's the issue of checking your kids' bills if they are separate. I don't expect my kids to know never to respond to a spam txt, or carefully read their facebook apps' terms....

March 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJerry

While listening to the clip from your conversation with Jennifer, I couldn't help but laugh at the insanity of it all! Having read the article in its entirety before listening to it, I found it all the more amusing that she uses the "I've been doing this for 7 years" line and repeatedly assured you that you would get the same answers from the executive level. I'm curious as to whether she actually forwarded your contact information on to this level or not.

It just goes to show the type of person that you are when your account has been taken care of and you still continue to deal with the problem in order to prevent the scammers from continuing their fraudulent activities.. It is good to know that people like you are still out there fighting for everyone and not just themselves!

March 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBMN

Jerry, yeh, it's definitely true. You do not have to actively sign up for anything or even respond to a text for the scammers to sign you up. It's pretty crazy. Watch the news video at the top of this article: http://www.azdisruptors.com/blog/2011/3/19/have-jawa-and-jason-hope-stolen-100-million.html

This Austin-based news station did a full story about the entire thing and how it works. It's even about the same company, Jawa, except back then, their name was Cylon. They simply changed their name to start fresh with a new reputation.

BMN, thank you for your comments. It was mind-blowing how confidently she spoke about what AT&T executives would tell me, especially considering the information she was giving me was all wrong.

Hamid

March 20, 2011 | Registered CommenterHamid Shojaee

Hamid, kudos for pressing this issue. Just listened to the entire call recording - that lady is an idiot and I would imagine won't have a job for long. Always amazed to see this level of insolence and unprofessionalism in upper-level positions of an org...

The fact that AT&T gets any portion of these charges and they're knowingly allow them to continue is disgusting. They're probably partying w/ Jason Hope in the backroom. Shine a bigass spotlight on this whole sham - can't wait to see how this unfolds. Press to get a response from an exec. This is f'ing inane.

March 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSean Tierney

have you tried filing a complaint with your state's attorney general?
http://www.azag.gov/consumer/complaintformintro.html
There are also other regulators in your state that might be affective in handling it.
Although a good Attorney General might like a nice high profile case

March 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJim

Google "cramming." It happened to me a couple years back. I caught it on the first billing cycle, but it took 2-3 calls each month, for 3 months, to get the charges reversed, and I was calling the "companies" behind the scam too, to give them hell. AT&T was useless when it came to doing anything but reversing the charges. According to the CSA's I spoke with, AT&T has no ability to block charges from 3rd vendors...so anyone can place a charge on your phone bill. Lovely, eh? But! Just last week, I received notice of a class action lawsuit against the crammers, so it seems like someone got angry enough to take action. Check out landlineclassaction.com for details of the suit.

March 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJuliem

I am amazed by the rudeness of this young woman who is representing AT&T...her behavior is reminiscent of the way Ma Bell conducted its business forty years ago. She's kind of like a 21st Century version of Lilly Tomlin's character Ernestine the telephone operator.

Clearly this woman is vying for some kind of loyalty bonus award. Listening to the customer is foremost on the list of call center employees things to do. I hope an AT&T executive listens to this call and takes action to have "Jennifer" retrained.

As for the company's policy regarding fraud and scammers...despicable...does not build trust.

March 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHenryG
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