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.


  1. Too_Patient Said,

    August 26, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

    How lame for any company to try to trick it’s customers to sign in for a subscription this way!

    You can find my story here:

  2. Continued Conversations With AT&T Said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 4:05 pm

    […] 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 […]

  3. James Lee Said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 7:48 pm

    This does a good job of articulating something I just posted about on Facebook. Fortunately, my experience wasn’t as bad – they were happy to reverse the charges – but I’m really appalled at this. Please thank your friend for the write-up and for finding out so much detail!

  4. BCG Said,

    October 7, 2010 @ 4:34 am

    So I checked my phone bill since it was much more than I have seen in the year I had it. There were 39.98 worth of additional charges, Downloads/find people/etc. I called of course, I didn’t have much of a problem since I go through my company to get discounts on charges and such. I don’t think they want to lose my companies money they get. So I asked after one full year of service with you why all of a sudden this? I never had this problem with Verizon and I was with them over 10 years. I switched to AT&T due to some issues with verizon recently and their so called Cust Service. anyways back to ATT. So the representative basically refunded Aug and the new amounts placed on my account I could not see yet. She also stated this does happen but did not state I must have agreed to the servcies. I guess the comment about a “Class Action Lawsuit” tends to frighten people. My Suggestion-File a Class Action, sadly it is the only supposed resolution in the United States to get anything done. Nothing these days is the way it used to be here, Customer Service and the protection of the consumer are long gone. So what if you pay taxes etc to be safe and protected, nobody cares about you anymore and if you should die there are more than hundreds to take your place for taxes to still be paid. Sad.