Thursday, February 9, 2012

WARNING! AT&T Hidden Charge Phone Scam - Unwanted Tips

It takes a lot to work up my ire, but phone companies have a knack for it. I learned today about a new way that AT&T has discovered to reach into my pocket and loot my wallet and I want to share my tale with everyone. For the last few months one of the household cell phones has been popping up a text that said:

"Lovegenietips Flirting Tips; 3msg/week for $9.99/m T&Cs: Msg&data rates may apply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel. PIN 2QRH

Suspecting it was a phishing scam...
we didn't text our 'STOP' message, but waited til the end of the month and checked the online bill. It looked like this:

The total might be heady for some families, but this includes phones for kids and a critical work phone. As you can see, there is no obvious new charge for any 'Love Genie' subscription. Since we have been tweaking our plan over the last few months to account for changes in usage and adding a kid phone we didn't notice the increase in the overall total, so naturally we though, whew!

Fast forward a few months to today and over on Facebook there is an update from a friend about how she noticed that her bill was $20 more than normal. She did some hunting through the .pdf version of her bill she found not one, but two 'subscriptions' to something called 'bullroare'. She had never requested this service. Cue some furious paper searching on my end and low and behold, this was hidden in the printable version of our bill:

More searching at SMS Watch Dog and we discover that we are even more not alone. In fact there are even some folks who got this message and who did type 'STOP' that still found a fat new charge on their AT&T bill. No two ways about it. This is a SCAM. And one that at the very least AT&T is complicit in perpetuating, if not actively directing. Though my kids might have been tricked up, no one in our house knowingly requested this service. My facebook friend doesn't even have kids to frown at warily.

$10 might not be a ton of money to one person, but multiply that by all the folks on AT&T phones. Give the charge just one or two months gone and that number is so big if it was a truck it would be flagged 'wide load'. So, AT&T, you want to explain how you allowed this 'service' to piggyback its way onto your bill? While you are at it why don't you explain why I have to hunt through my bill to find this stuff too.

After calling up we got two months refunded, but the charges go back another 4 months. That's $40. I have four kids who keep my life busy with hockey and soccer and 4H and doctor visits and a thousand other chores and errands that leave me relying on trust that the people and companies I patronize are acting legitimately. AT&T, this is a poor poor show. You've wallowed in the mud, and I want my $40 back.

And you know what... we never got our 3msg/per week love tips, not even one.

UPDATE - These are screen shots from my friend's experience. Her overview was a little more informative.

But the detailed bill shows a double subscription. It's unclear what one 'Bullroare' subscription should get you. A trumpet for falsehoods or a large horned mammal fresh from a testicle thwacking? I shudder to think what you'd get with two. Either way you will get taken for a charge you didn't want if you don't catch this in time.

*UPDATE March 13, 2012 - Got the AT&T bill today and guess what? That's right still being charged for Love Genie Tips. After the first call we learn that we are only getting credited for this month and last month now, which means that AT&T is actually keeping $50 of my money. E-mail has been sent, with a link to this post to the executive of customer service. We'll see what happens now. When will the madness end?


  1. And the charge is back this month. I called and complained, and AT&T said I should be happy with the 2 months credit I've already gotten, and that I should just pay this charge.

    I've contacted executive support, so let's see if AT&T wants me to switch to Sprint. I am unsure if they really want it to end, since they profit every time it goes through.

  2. Same dog bit me two years ago but just a little harder. I didn't notice a $29.00 and another $9.99 charge that appeared out of nowhere for a public popularity poll SMS subscription and because I'm accustomed to just paying my bill so long as I don't see one of AT&T's famous ‘WTF Bills’, well, I ended up paying for this for over 11 months. Told by AT&T we'll only refund you for three months. AT&T said it is my responsibility to monitor my account for unusual activity - I honestly believed I wasn't vulnerable there.
    I mean, by logic, if banking law dictates that an account holder cannot be held liable because the electronic security measures the institution utilizes are beyond the account holders control and therefore the financial institution is the one who bears the loss when an account transaction is unauthorized and was processed via electronic measures. So doesn't that haggled out wisdom apply here, AT&T should have swallowed that one.

    Oh and another crazy thing, I NEVER received an SMS to even ignore, nothing, just a sneaky charge.
    Whoever handles our money is also responsible for protecting the true record of the balance falls.

    After talking to AT&T I checked around and found the phone number to the guy who owned that service & he seemed genuinely astonished to hear anyone was billing through his company because it had been sold a year earlier he stated – which was just before the services showed up on my statements. He said that the contact he had with AT&T was supposed to be dissolved as a condition of purchase.

    He also told me that he had received other reports of similar occurrences. He said he would get to the bottom of it and get back with me but he never did, hell, for all I know he may have been the jerk who stole my money and he could've pulled that story from his wazoo.

    Old sneaky and reckless AT&T, but you know what guys, we got our grandfathered data plans back and the FCC just bitch slapped them. Oh yes, I told them they were going to give me back what was mine.