News 4 is investigating unwanted phone charges attached to some AT&T phone bills.
A St. Charles County man contacted News 4 after his phone bill spiked. Matt Cleary says there were charges from ESafe ID, OAN services, and Fetch Unlimited. According to ESafe Id's website, they offer identity protection services for $14.95 a month.
After complaining to the companies in question, the charges were reversed. However there are still questions about how Cleary was signed up in the first place. According to ESafe Id's website you only need to enter basic information that can be lifted from a phone book, as well as an email address to get signed up. Cleary says he never authorized any of the charges, and has no idea who signed him up for the service.
An ESafe employee told News 4 they are "not in the practice of talking to television reporters, thank you for calling and have a nice day."
After contacting Fetch Unlimited, a representative told News 4 Cleary signed up for their service through a Website called giftcardexchange.com. Again, Cleary says he never authorized the charge. Another provider that was also billing Cleary, Kool Tel, said they use a third party to verify a customers information. A lawyer representing Kool Tel could not remember the name of the company that does the third party verification.
After contacting AT&T they released this information about how consumers can protect themselves from unwanted charges:
Our customers can request at any time to have third-party charges blocked from their bill at no charge. This option is available in all AT&T service areas, and we proactively offer this option to any customer that contacts us with a cramming complaint. We’d be happy to help set this up for Mr. Cleary.
We take immediate action to help customers who contact us and report that they may have been billed for unauthorized third-party charges, and we issue credits to all customers who call us to report cramming complaints on their bill. Customers will not be required to pay AT&T for the disputed charges. We also encourage customers to first deal directly with the third-party that originated the charge to address any specific questions. Third-party charges are clearly identified on a separate page of the bill, which lists the third-party service providers and their toll-free contact numbers.
Here are a few tips on how customers can prevent cramming or other unwanted charges on their bill:
Request that third-party charges be blocked from your bill. If you’re not interested in purchasing third-party services, you may contact AT&T at any time to request that third-party charges be blocked from your bill at no charge.
· Avoid placing calls to 900 numbers. The FTC says consumers should consider a 900-number block; it stops calls from going through to 900 number services.
· Avoid accepting collect calls, signing up for sweepstakes or contests online or generally entering your contact information in places that are not considered “secure” – like unsecured websites and solicitations made over the phone. These sometimes have “fine print” that note by providing your information, you’re signing up for additional services.
· Discuss all charges with other members of your household. Sometimes confusion can arise over charges that show up on a customer’s bill because household members forget to discuss services that were ordered.
· Always read the “fine print” and know what you’re signing up for. In some cases, customers simply may not have understood a transaction when it took place. Pay close attention to service offers, contests or other scenarios where you may be giving away your information and signing up for services you don’t want.
· For additional tips, visit www.att.com/safety.
It’s important to note that AT&T can and will discipline any service providers that bill unauthorized charges, including imposing fees, or even terminating the billing relationship. However, the vast majority of service providers adhere to our strict guidelines for sales, verification and billing. In fact, substantially less than 1% of bills that have third party charges result in cramming complaints.