Continued Conversations With AT&T

So, previously I got depressed about SMS conversations with AT&T. I was then consoled and warned at the same time by my friend that I was not alone. And after his advice, and some other random advice from google results I decided to try the magic “stop” word. It is supposed to work when “no” doesn’t. So, when the next message came around:

AT&T from #4436:
AT&T Free Tip: Get weather, movie or restaurant tips from Google
on your phnoe. Text HELP to 466453 to get started.
To end Tips send no to 4436

Ah ha! I got you now silly AT&T. I now know your magic key word!!!


And then I waited. I’ve never waited so long for a text message. I felt like I was in high school again. Ok, not really.

AT&T from #4436:
You have Opted out of AT&T Tips messages.
Please do not REPLY to this message.

Victory! I stood up, danced around my office and laughed at the ceiling while beating my chest with my fists. Ok, not really either.

But I was happy. Finally an end!

And then…

And then…

5 days later:

AT&T from #1111301000:
AT&T Free Tip: You can check your
voice plan minutes used & sms
messages sent with My Account.
Click Go to try.  To end Tips no
to 4436


Now, I don’t know if you caught it. Go back, look at that last message and catch the difference. Go ahead, I’ll wait.


You didn’t cheat did you?

Good. You spotted it (I’m giving you the credit here): it’s from a different number. It’s no longer from 4436, it’s now from 1111301000. Now, lets do some quick math. 10 digit number, with 10 possible digits (1-9) in each spot. I actually think that first number is a 1 meaning country code one (+1 is how they write it in the rest of the world; that same “rest of the world” that uses metric and other standardized conventions). So, lets assume that there are only 9 numbers they can vary. That’s 10^9th possible combinations.

Or: 1,000,000,000 (1 billion to save you from counting zeros)

Now, assuming I can send 200 free text messages in a month under my plan (they say their messages are free. They never once say that sending back “no” or “stop” is free), then it would take me….

1000000000/200 = 5,000,000 months to cancel them all with “stop”
which is:
5,000,000/12 = 416,666 years!

Yes! I can actually calculate the days until freedom! (152,187,500 days)

And yes, I included leap years. Because I’m just that much of a geek.

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My Friend’s Older Conversation With AT&T

I recently posted my both funny and depressing text message conversation with AT&T as a result of their spamming me (which, by the way, I still haven’t managed to turn off mostly because I gave up).

A friend of mine (WY0X) gave me permission to post his recap of his on-the-phone conversations with AT&T about a similar, but even worse, problem:

Be really careful with those. I recently had to deal with a scam on Karen’s phone. Apparently AT&T has made it super-easy for 3rd party “providers” to send you a text message, and if you reply AT ALL, that’s all AT&T can see in their system. The 3rd party company then uses the convenient “upload an XML file full of phone numbers and any arbitrary price we desire to extract from said phone users” file to AT&T for AT&T to handle the billing. When you call to contest this $19.99 monthly “subscription” that shows up on your AT&T cell phone bill, they say, “Well, we see you exchanged text messages with the company in our system. You must have accepted an offer from them.” Only after an hour of explaining that my wife was NOT that stupid and NEVER replied to any message that said “will you sign up?”… did they offer to refund the charges and set up “Parental Controls” (HA!) on both of our accounts so NO 3rd party could ever bill anything on them. I highly recommend to all on AT&T.

So seriously, some company could send you this message “Hey, what you doing tonight?” from a number you don’t recognize, and you could send back, “Who is this?” and AT&T would see that as “proof” that you had a business relationship with them. When I pointed this out to an AT&T supervisor they said, “I suppose that could happen — we are getting a ot of complaints right now. However I’ve refunded the fees this month.” … Okay lady, how do I stop it FOREVER, and why are you making it easier for unknown third parties to bill me, your customer, than it is for me to opt-out of such shenanigans? Oh by the way, I will be reporting this to our State Attorney General since it’s generally considered bad business to bill for another party whom you can’t prove has a business relationship of any kind with your customer. You yourselves say you can’t see the text messages for privacy reasons… so how do you know EVERY one of the bills you’re sending out isn’t a scam such as I described?

She was like a deer in headlights, and started reading from the script again. After about four attempts I said, “What would you say if this were my 12 year old’s phone?” “Oh, we have Parental Controls for that!” Well, there ya go lady… fire me up some “Parental Controls” on both lines, please… my wife’s and mine. “But you won’t be able to order any other services!” “That’s absolutely correct, and I can’t see us ever NEEDING those other services either, but my wife did enjoy a few of the Trivia questions she received once a month from these idiots.” That was pretty much the end of the conversation at that point. 30-45 minutes of my life wasted, stopping my cell carrier for billing me for other people’s scam businesses.

AT&T *did* do the “right thing” and refund it, but there were clueless about why I was upset about it. I finally got down to asking everyone I talked to there: “Please prove I have a business relationship with XYZ third party company, which allows you to bill me for their services.” They were dumbfounded. There was nothing on their (so called) customer service scripts to handle someone asking such a “tough” question.

I love the fact I have intelligent friends. I hate the fact I have less-than-intelligent companies.

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Today’s Conversation With AT&T

So, AT&T has gotten in the recent habit of spamming you with “tips”. “tips” are really “spam” when they’re trying to get you to do things that will eventually make them money (ie, by using more of their services).

Here’s the “tip” I got today:

AT&T Free Tip: Get weather, movie or restaurant
tips from Google on your phone.
Text HELP to 466453 to get started.
To end Tips send no to 4436

Easy, enough, I thought.


And a few seconds later, I got the response back:

Sorry, we did not understand
your response.  Reply ONLY the
word "YES" to activate the 4
channel/$6 Mobile TV plan


Ok, I thought. Maybe it’s because my phone auto-capitalized the word “No”


And a few seconds later, I got the response back:

Sorry, we did not understand
your response.  Reply ONLY the
word "YES" to activate the 4
channel/$6 Mobile TV plan



[UPDATE 2009/08/20: Read the follow-on story from a friend describing his conversation with AT&T]

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