I had just finished two back to back midterms for school and rushed home to do some advertising for my small business. I checked my phone, and received the message
“You are currently subscribed to ***** Alerts. $9.99/mo + Msg & Data Rates May Apply. Text STOP to quit at any time. Support: text HELP or contact ********** “.
I am afraid to mention them by name, as they somehow got my information the first time, and I really do not need them to target me again. My cell phone company was unable to tell me anything about them, how they got my information or who they were, just that they were allowed to charge me $9.99 a month.
What personal information did they need from me to start charging my account $9.99? My phone number, that’s it. I have no idea how they got it, and I was tempted to change my phone number, but my cell phone carrier convinced me not to.
Once I got the message I called my cell phone company and asked them to stop it. They said the only way to stop it was to reply back.
So the only way to stop an unsolicited text was to reply back. I thought that was odd. But I did as they said. That was the way to stop the ‘membership’ I had signed up for, I still have no idea who they are.
After I texted stop to the unsolicited text from a provider I didn’t know I called my carrier back.
On my cell phone providers website, the $9.99 charge was not visible on the online bill, I was only visible on the online the PDF version. I will never again look at an overview of my bill online, as it misses major details just as $9.99 membership charges I was not aware of.
On the PDF file bill, next to the $9.99 charge it said premium text. When I had started with this carrier, I had specified for them to block this feature (and they hadn’t). Luckily, they did reimburse me for the loss.
So how did this happen? The representative of my cell phone company said that he had heard on public radio that Farmville was taking information from computers. It makes a certain amount of sense, and I do know that Farmville is very intrusive anyways.
Your computer stores a lot of information about you, and the sites you’ve been to. Items called spyware and malware enter your computer through the internet and take this information and use it for their benefit. It is wise to never visit a site you don’t trust.
As a small business owner I place classified ads on the internet, on which I place my personal cell phone number at times. I was not as careful about doing this, as I would be if I had used my debit card.
It turns out, that you should be more careful when entering your cell phone number online, than a credit/debit card. With a credit/debit card there is more protection for the consumer.
I used to work for a bank that used visa debit cards, and I had access to their systems. I could see when the charges where tried, if a physical card was swiped or not, and who had tried to charge it. There were also a wide arrange of blocks I could place on the card if unauthorized transactions occurred. And finally we had a team devoted to fighting fraud and unauthorized charges.
Cell phones have no such protection, but if someone has your cell phone number they can bill you a monthly $9.99 charge.
Let’s say you never noticed the charge and let it go on for 30 years. Say instead you could have used the money at a 5% interest rate (interest charged monthly), like to help pay off a mortgage. After 30 years, you would have lost $8,314.26. So as soon as you see any ‘little’ charge you are unaware of, make sure to put a stop to it ASAP.
I used to take similar disputes from clients on the debit cards as well. People would accidently sign into memberships with monthly fees by trying free samples, ordering pizza off of the internet, and much more.
The bottom line, always check all of your statements carefully. A lot of these ‘memberships’ test the water with a $1 charge.
I did not want to call my cell phone company that night, but you must call your bank or cell phone provider as soon as you see anything that you do not recognize. They will help explain things to you.
The sad thing is, that the memberships are third party providers, so cell phone companies cannot do much (except block premium text messaging to prevent this from happening in the first place).
Be careful online, and remember that people can use your cell phone number to sign you up for memberships. You can’t tell who they are, where they did it, or the alleged terms and conditions you agreed to.
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