ESBI — Bogus Phone Charges

Posted on March 22, 2011

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Crammers are on the move again. I just noticed a $14.95 charge on my phone bill from ESBI that I did not approve. When I looked up ESBI on the Internet, it showed up under BSG.

In 2001, the FTC charged Enhanced Billing Services Inc., better known as ESBI, with cramming and settled with them, but ESBI is undeterred. When I did a cursory search on the company, I found more complaints about the company’s cramming tactics from 2005 to the present.

And the company is no respecter of phone companies. They charge Verizon, Century Link, Sprint customers and others, so ESBI charges could show up on your land line or cell phone bill.

When I challenged the charge with Century Link (formerly Embarq, formerly Sprint), the customer service rep told me I had to call the company to dispute it, but she could dispute it from her end, too, and put a 3rd party block on my phone to prevent future 3rd party charges. I told her to do it.

When I called ESBI, the system asked me for my phone number, which I submitted, but then sent me to an entirely different company called Total Protection Plus Fax and Backup (TPPF&B) — couldn’t find a thing on that company when I did a search on the Internet.

When a TPPF&B sales rep came on the phone, he asked me for my name, address, phone number and DOB. Why would he need my DOB? That set off a red light for me, so I told him I would give him all the information he wanted if he would only give to me my house number. He kept saying that he could not by law, so I told him that I believed it was a scam and hung up.

I called back, though, curious what would happen if I provided fake address information. Sure enough, they accepted it as fact, so obviously the company had no information on me at all, but was fishing for information by cramming my phone. After three months of this cramming, I figured out that they must do this randomly without knowing who owns the phone number. When you call the ESBI phone number to dispute it, THEN they get all your information. I believe that is to ensure they can validate that you owe them the crammed charge.

Bottom line: Check your phone bill for cramming. It typically happens in numbers, so there could be plenty of you out there experiencing it right now. Also, if it happens, submit an online complaint with the FTC. If they get enough complaints, they investigate and prosecute if they find just cause.

Looking after you here at Writing 4 Effect …

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Posted in: Miscellaneous