T-Mobile ending premium text message billing in order to fight fraud

sms premium text message

It’s not often we hear news regarding U.S. carriers that stirs a sense of pride, or happiness. Today, however, all four major carriers in the States have announced plans to drop premium text service billing. The aim is predominantly to combat fraud. Some of you will no doubt have experience premium messaging scams, where you’re charged an extortionate fee just to receive a specific message from a premium number, or for replying to one.

This new act from the “Big Four” will go incredibly far to combat the issue, known as “cramming”.

Vermont Attorney General, Bill Sorrell stated (before Verizon confirmed it would be joining):

“We are pleased that AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have decided to stop the flow of money from the pockets of ordinary people to the bank accounts of scam artists. We’re hopeful the other carriers will soon follow their lead.”

If you like to donate to charities using text-to-donate services, or voting on TV shows like American Idol by text, don’t worry. These services will still be allowed. T-Mobile published a handy FAQ section on its blog earlier:

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 23.52.21 Via: T-Mobile, AllThingsD

Tags: ,

  • Deadeye37

    Dang it! I love paying $10 a month for 4 text messages with my horoscope in it that my kid sent for. Where am I going to get a horoscope for less than $2.50?!? *SOB*

  • TheVorlon

    It would be nice if they would block sms spam as well.

    • superg05

      you can report spam from your phone

      • TheVorlon

        You can send a report off to a black hole.

        Doing so doesn’t block anything.

  • Mark

    While Idol, etc. don’t charge extra for voting by text message, Big Brother definitely does to the tune of $1/pop. I wonder what this will do to their bottom line.

    • kalel33

      They stated that those will still be included to charge to the bill, including donations to the Red Cross.

  • MarcusDW

    Good. My God good. Good God good lol man I hate those things like I hate payday loans.

  • ikeepzitreal

    my poor mom became victim of one of those scams, it was bullshit they charge for $20 a month for some stupid horoscope reading and it took half a year literally to get the charges dropped eventually she had to change your number to avoid the charges. Luckily shehad more Internet savvy since then :-)

  • Keith

    They wait until I no longer work for them to end this mess. It seemed like about 80% of the calls that came in were about premium charges. 10% were about people asking for the impossible. The other 10% were the more reasonable customers, lol.

  • Dakota

    Never even knew this existed, but scams will always continue. People are still replying to those Nigerian scam emails with all the bad spelling. Or I constantly see fake emails pretending to be banks needing you to log into your account. I always can tell they’re fake because they arrive in a dummy mail box I don’t use and sometimes are for institutions I don’t have accounts in. I always do the good things and forward the emails to the abuse department, but people fall for this stuff day in and day out

  • such great news.

  • Spanky

    I am pleasantly surprised that this finally took place. Although I’ve never had this happen to me personally, I’ve read many complaints about cramming. It’s about time the carriers did something about it.

  • an0nim0

    Can customers request a refund?
    Customers have always been able to request a refund. We encourage customers to check their monthly bills and to contact customer service if they see a charge they did not authorize.”

    Oh sure, customers can request a refund – doesn’t mean they’re going to get one; and they encourage customers to contact customer service if they see a charge they did not authorize, but then they just defer to the company in question who made the charge – who of course cannot be contacted.

    Sorry, T-Mobile – but that entire bullet point is a load of bullshit.

    • Matt

      Not at all bullshit. If you call them and ask them to remove the charge, they will. What they won’t do is remove charges that go back more than two months, because you should be reviewing your bill every month, especially if it seems high. If you see a charge on your current or previous bill for these items and you did not sign up, T-Mobile will 100% of the time give you credit.

      I would be willing to bet that you had a charge that was very old (or valid), and weren’t able to get a refund, and now you’re butthurt.

      • an0nim0

        Did that – 3 times, twice in the first month when there were 2 separate $10 charges from different “companies” out of nowhere, once in the second when it happened again; every one of them gave us the runaround, telling us to contact the respective companies (the lack of response from which prompting the second call in the first month) – none of them would remove the charges (nay, they claimed they couldn’t remove the charges – the 3rd-party was responsible for issuing credit, they said).

        What’s worse, they were completely unwilling to do anything to prevent it – they couldn’t block the specific companies from sending texts to the phone, nor could they block the companies entirely – despite obvious evidence of fraud; we finally just had to block ALL incoming texts on that line (not that it mattered much – it was my Mom’s phone, on which she’s never once sent or [knowledgably] received a text – most of the time she doesn’t even have it turned on; but if it was my phone, I would’ve been suing them), and we had to tell them to do that – they didn’t even provide us with the option! If we hadn’t just signed a new contract, we could’ve canceled that day.

        • Matt

          Again, not true. You can 100% ask that a block for these paid services be applied to the line(s), and they will apply credits for these services if they are caught in a reasonable amount of time.

          If you’re not getting it when calling in, go to your nearest T-Mobile corporate store location, explain your story (nicely!) to the employees, if you get a rep who knows their stuff, they can request the refunds and add the block right through their system… but not all employees know how to use that system in the stores, but can (and will) call Customer Care on your behalf to have it taken care of.

          My only other thought is when you call, you’re not treating the people on the other end like human beings. When you treat people like crap, it makes it hard for them to want to help you…I say this because you made a point to mention the “threat” of suing, which is a last-resort type of thing, and not something you threaten over $10, or $20, or even $30 worth of questionable charges. Also, you can also ask to escalate to a supervisor, but again, the key is treating them the way you would want to be treated, it’s a person on the other end of the phone.

        • an0nim0

          That reminds me – prior to that my mom had been getting texts from some Mexican number in Spanish; I tried replying to the texts letting them know they had the wrong number, but the texts kept coming; we actually contacted T-Mobile to try to get that number blocked, but they refused that as well (though they did at least credit the charge for the unwarranted texts)… maybe they’ve changed their policies, but there didn’t used to be a way to selectively block numbers (or if there was, no CSR with whom I spoke knew how to use the system either).

          Anyway, it’s too late now – this was nearly 3 years ago… but I know all too well how to treat CSRs – I worked tech support myself for a number a years, and we were nothing but cordial with the first representative – followed their directions to the letter; the second call we did have to ask for a supervisor – who gave the same spiel, insisting we contact the companies again – and the third time with the same response is where it would’ve come to blows had it been in person (I never thought to try a store; probably a good thing).

          Note: I never threatened to sue – I’m saying, if it had been my line (y’know, ’cause I actually text), I wouldn’t have even made the threat – I would’ve gone straight to class-action, ’cause you’re right – there’s absolutely no excuse for how completely dismissive of the issue they were; they were effectively allowing anyone to bill anything they wanted, without any recourse or option for resolution short of blocking all texts to the line – and as far as they were concerned, it was neither their fault nor their problem to solve.

          It’s also worth noting that I’ve always had good customer service from T-Mobile under most other circumstances (save for a bit of a kerfuffle over my pre-order of the HTC One, which was one of the worst ordering experiences I’ve ever had – their website was so completely dysfunctional for days, it took that long just to get an order placed – but they canceled the order (twice), because the credit card kept getting declined – despite my explicit permission given to the credit card company; turned out to be a pretty widespread problem with T-Mobile at the time, but of course “this is the first I’ve heard of it” – and by the time I got the order to go through successfully, it was a week delayed – and they were unwilling to do anything to expedite it); but on this particular issue, their response was not only consistent (reading the script to the letter), they were completely stonewalling any attempt to go off script (I mean, I would ask a question and they would repeat something they’d already read previously – having absolutely nothing to do with the question). I’ve had experiences like that before, but this was the only time T-Mobile did the same – and it happened across 3 separate calls, all on the same topic… that’s not a coincidence.

        • bigjohn7187

          Only certain phones can block specific numbers. It is not a feature of the network infrastructure.but again your post is inaccurate and Untrue. T-mobile has offered Family allowances service for several years, which allows you to fully customize when and how your phone works on the network. what numbers can call you or be called by you, everything. They were not unwilling to block a specific number they were unable to do so without adding a new feature onto your account. It is done on an account by account basis because adding that into the entire network architecture would cost billions of dollars.

  • Nearmsp

    I am surprised that Lawyers did not sue the cell phone companies for going along with this third party scamming and kept benefiting for years by sharing a part of the commission revenue. In my opinion all of these companies must face punitive fines, that will be born out of the bonus funds of the executives – not customers, not shareholders.

    • bigjohn7187

      well not all premium sms charges are scams. Unfortunately the ones that are, ruined it for everyone. Why should the CEO be charged because you didn’t pay attention to what you signed up for or sent a message too?