Beware of Miscellaneous Charges on Your Phone Bill

 Take a really good look at your landline phone bill (those of you that still have landline phones). Are there any miscellaneous charges on your bill?  These charges may be for some sort of email or voicemail service.  But, you don’t ever remember authorizing any such services.  What’s more, these services are not being provided by your telephone provider.  Many times the services are categorized as Enhanced Services. 

Don’t be fooled, some sketchy companies have been finding ways to deceptively get you to “authorize” their services through other transactions you conduct on the web. This has happened to me in the last few months. Sometimes your telephone company is not to blame.  In fact, some of my clients, the local telephone company in a number of cities, feel just as burned as you do.  These sketchy companies send an invoice to your telephone company with charges outstanding for services rendered to the telco’s customers, including you.  Then your telephone company has to pay the charge and passes through the charge to you.  Remember, your telephone company doesn’t know that you didn’t authorize the charge. 

Bottom line is these companies deceitfully get you to authorize their services, they charge your telephone company, your telephone company charges you.  Meanwhile, the sketchy company gets paid while pissing you off.  When you get pissed off, you tend to get mad at your telephone company, which hurts their business. 

Be extra diligent and read the fine print to any transaction you are conducting online, such as purchasing merchandise or subscribing to services.  Often, these companies put their sketchy terms of service inconspicuously in the descriptions.  If you have provided your home telephone number during the transaction, it is what they use to put the charges onto your bill. 

If you have been charged any unauthorized charges, look for a phone number in the Miscellaneous Charges portion of your bill.  Sometimes an enhanced billing agent will bill you for these services.  One notable company is Enhanced Services Billing, Inc.  If all else fails, call your local service provider to obtain numbers to the carriers providing the unauthorized services.    

Once you obtain the phone numbers, call them to request a credit or refund for the charges that were billed.  They may resist by telling you that they have evidence of you authorizing the service.  Just let them know that you did not knowingly authorize the service.  If you haven’t used the service, let them know this and tell them it is not fair of them to charge you for services that (1) you did not know you had; (2) you have not used; and (3) were obtained by their company through deceptive practices.  Also let them know that you will go to the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau with a complaint.  This very same thing happened to me recently, and once I went through these steps, these companies were obliged to credit the monies that I had already paid. 

Block Billing for Enhanced Services with Your Local Telephone Provider

Once you have spoken with the companies, call your local telephone company and request that enhanced services billing be blocked from your account.  That way, enhanced services providers will not be able to assess charges against you via your telephone bill.