Buyer Beware – 3rd Party Scam – Verizon Billing

PhoneI am the editor of the Pottstown Herald Newspaper.  I felt that the rest of the residents in the area should know how vulnerable they were to the current billing system that Verizon has in place.

My Mother in law is 75+ yrs old and lives in a nursing home in Reading, Pa.  We, of course, manage & pay her bills.  About 2 months ago we received her monthly phone bill.

On the Verizon bill was an entry for a company called “Bill with us” for a charge of $7.64.

This was not the first 3rd party charge that has shown up on a Verizon bill.

Since I had been through this entire process just 2 months previously I already knew I had to call the company directly to dispute the charge.

Want to know what services they provide?  Want to know who they are? This particular company does NOTHING.  They call you and if your answering machine picks up they charge you a fee.  If a live person picks up, they hang up the phone and you never knew they called.

That is the only service they provide. I can’t  find any other services that this company provides other than billing you if your answering machine picks up. Nice racket huh?

In this case, My Mother in law let the answering machine pickup so this company decided to place a $7 charge on her Verizon bill. I am thinking their rationale is that some people will dispute the charges, but others won’t. It is all about the numbers.  $7 x 500/wk = $3500/wk right?

The best part is, when you call Verizon to dispute the charge, after waiting for 10 minutes or more and getting transferred around 4 times, they tell you to call that company, because Verizon isn’t responsible for 3rd party charges.

Per Brianna, the supervisor I talked to at Verizon, there is a Federal Mandate that requires Verizon to allow a 3rd party to bill a consumer through their Verizon phone bill.

Now I understand that they have to follow the law, but the part that I don’t understand is that when I asked Brianna how do we stop this, she told me “There is no way to prevent this from happening”. “We can only request that the 3rd party bill you separately, we can’t block them”.

Keep in mind, this is after being transferred to 4 different departments and hearing 4 different things, it was only when I requested to speak to a supervisor that I finally received the real answer.  This was over an hour’s worth of time.

I find it hard to believe that a company as large as Verizon does not have a process or policy in place to prevent this type of abuse from happening.  Or is it that they don’t want to prevent it?  Seems to me that there must be some form of monetary amount attached to this that Verizon is receiving for the billing?

Normally I would not have spent this much time over such a small amount, obviously this must be the plan of “Bill with us,” but since this was the 2nd time that a charge like this showed up on a Verizon account, I figured I would look into it a bit more.

Verizon discloses known scam issues on their website here: http://www22.verizon.com/pages/securityalerts/

When I spoke to the supervisor above, she indicated this was type of issue not a scam issue and they could not help me further that I had to contact the 3rd party company directly.

Think of how many people would not notice a $7 charge on their phone bill and multiple that out to see how much this company is ripping people off!

When I did a search for “Bill with us” and “Bill with us inc” there are no search results listed in Google. Is this even a valid company?  Verizon customer service would not provide me with any of that information, so I dug a little deeper.

When you search for the phone number provided by Verizon as the billing company: 877-257-2455 you get results in google that this is a company in Texas that is called: Transaction Clearing LLC.  This is not the name of the company that showed on the bill though.

Here is a list from the Alabama Public Service Commission that must require some form of registration, they have this information listed on their Website:  http://www.psc.state.al.us/Telecom/TPP/TPPbyDate.asp

Transaction Clearing LLC
Billing Name: Transaction Clearing LLC
500 N Loop 1604 E. Ste 250, San Antonio, TX 78232
Type of Company: Billing Aggregator
Status: Approved
Toll Free Nos: 877-257-2455

Apparently they also operate as:

Rocket Communication Svcs, Inc
Phone:  877-257-2455
334 E Lake Road #232
334 E Lake Road #232
Palm Harbor, Florida 34685

Per this website: http://www.ripoffreport.com/Telephone-Companies/Rocket-Communication/rocket-communication-svcs-inc-3ecay.htm

I also found reference to:

ZPDI
Coralville, Iowa 52241

It makes you wonder if Verizon has any idea of who the actual company is?  I think they should be made to dig into this a little bit as I am sure they are collecting some form of revenue from all of this 3rd party billing scam.  Is there really a 3rd party company?

Today, I am reporting this issue to the Pa Attorney General in the hopes that someone there can dig a little deeper from a legal perspective to protect consumers.

By the way, after calling Verizon and getting transferred 4 times, they finally agreed to credit the account for $7.  Why did they do that I wonder?

Thoughts & comments are welcome.

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7 Responses to Buyer Beware – 3rd Party Scam – Verizon Billing

  1. Sylvia on October 26, 2009 at 8:49 am

    The same thing has happened to me several times with my elderly mother THEY are picking the pockets of the seniors and AT&T and the other phone companies are holding the pocket open. Our legislators have blatantly stuck it to us, the innocent who have no defense thanks to our government leaders, the ones we elect to take care of us have permitted this to go on for many years without changing the legislation. THERE NEEDS TO BE A LAW THAT NO THIRD PARTY CAN ATTACH CHARGES TO TELEPHONE BILLS. How hard can that be. What is happening is FRAUD with the consent of the Federal Government.

  2. Greg on October 20, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    This just happened to me in August with Frontier Telephone through a 3rd party service called EDSI. There were two $15 charges in August, called both and they promised to cancel and refund. In Sept I got credit for 2 $15 charges but 3 new ones were added.

    Frontier Tel refunded all up to that point. I was offered the 3rd party block but I now have to pay $2 per month. I should NOT have to pay this but I see no option at this point so will do it for a short period of time to hopefully stop wasting over a hour of my time every month trying to take care of these.

    I can’t see how this will not eventually be covered by some class action lawsuit. This is a practice that makes no sense and is a SCAM.

  3. Steve on October 17, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    I’ve had this same problem since signing up for FIOS. The first time I caught it and Verizon removed it without a problem (I had done some online research before calling them so I was ready) The second bill has the same Rocket Comm charge of $12.95 for a fax service, I’m currently on the phone with them…I really have to wonder if Verizon is getting a kick-back on from this 3rd party charge.

  4. Mike on September 29, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Requesting that the 3rd Party bills you separately and directly is a “3rd Party Billing Block”, i.e, Verizon is blocked from billing you for a 3rd party. They are just not calling it that. The fraud, in this case, is being committed by the 3rd Party. I suspect your problems will disappear with that option.

    ( updated with correct spelling )

  5. Editor on September 29, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Hey Mike,

    I wish it were that easy. Unfortunately I found out yesterday after 30 minutes on the phone with 4 people at Verizon that you can not put a block on the 3rd party, you can request they bill you separately which should slow it down, but there is no way to block it. You can request the block, but they can’t put one on there.

    Other phone companies may be different, but not Verizon, unfortunately for us.

  6. Mike on September 29, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Any consumer can call their local phone company and place a 3rd party billing block on their account. Most customers should do this to prevent the fraud referenced in the article above.

    Some other items phone customers may wish to consider blocking are:

    Slamming protection block
    976, 900 block
    3rd party non-regulated charge block
    Collect call block

  7. Steve on September 28, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Awesome article and a lot of information that is difficult to digest. So how does the average homeowner combat this?
    This type of action has got to break some law, we just need to know which one.