Cramming. My experience is in relationship to Northwest Nevada Telco (NWNT, Jack Lawless, President), NV TELCO, U.S.B.I., E.S.B.I., Z.P.D.I., One Call Com, Opticom, Opitiview, U.S.P. & C., Integretel, Alyon, Premier Premium Communications, HTI, Brightstar Telco, Future Fone, Porsche Enterprises, WSU (Peter Priestly, aka Peter Humphrey), and others The Local Exchange Companies (LEC) that most of the bills, there were also others, I dealt with were from: SBC, Bell South, Verizon, Qwest, Frontier and Puerto Rico Telephone.
I have not been a victim of cramming but I worked as a customer service representative for charges on phone bills and direct billing.
Cramming is the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges on your telephone bill. Entities that fraudulently cram onto bills appear to rely largely on confusing telephone bills in order to mislead consumers into paying for services that they did not authorize or receive. In addition to providing local telephone service, local telephone companies often bill their customers for long distance and other services that other companies provide.
When the local company, the long distance telephone company, or another type of service provider either accidentally or intentionally sends inaccurate billing data to be included on the consumer's local telephone bill, cramming can occur.
Charges that are added to a consumer's telephone bill every month without a clear explanation of the services provided - such as a "monthly fee" or "minimum monthly usage fee.?? Make sure you know what service was provided, even for small charges. Crammers often try to go undetected by submitting $2.00 or $3.00 charges to thousands of consumers. References (Sources) for this and additional information is at the end of this posting. I will also use quotation marks when quoting directly from a document. Memos quoted from NWNT were often re-issued because of the turn over of employees; I will only quote from one date.
If you have received a bill that fits this description I hope the following information can help you understand and resolve the problem. For legal advice, please, contact an attorney, I am a customer service representative giving an opinion. I hope you will pass on this information to others including; people who do not have access to the internet, employers (accounts payable departments), Congressional Representatives, Media Representatives (print and television) and anyone who has a phone or a computer who may have been billed and not noticed the charge, as you did, in your area. You have my permission to print this statement and to contact me.
I was an employee at NWNT from June of 2001 until I was terminated on Dec. 7th, 2004 (3 years 5 months and approximately 18 days). I worked as a customer service representative answering in-bound calls concerning billing that appeared on phone bills and direct bills to individuals, businesses and public services. The companies?? names I have listed I can document, taking inquires about or are associated with NWNT. They are not all of the companies that I took calls about: I remember others. The companies, other than the LECs, have identified themselves as doing customer service or billing companies.
September 24, 2004, "Effective Immediately: If a customer asks what the name of our company is, tell them Northwest Nevada Telco, not USBI. Northwest Nevada Telco handles customer service (for) a number of different companies." ?x Prior to this memo we identified ourselves as customer service for the company on the bill and our location was never given as Reno, NV.
None of these companies, to my knowledge, have identified themselves as the origin of the charge or identified where the charge originated. None, to my knowledge, have identified what the charge is specifically, according to the requirement under the law.
??On or about Nov. 23, 2004???x?x?x Michelle posted on the Internet?x?x. The topic was fraudulent billing on phone bills in relationship to NWNT and Jack Lawless. As a result NWNT and Jack Lawless for sued her and ripoffreport.com. Michelle for "wrongfully posted false and defamatory factual statements on Rip-off Report's web site with the intent to disparage, defame, and injure Plaintiff's business."?x?x?x I am here to post concerning the same issues as Michelle.
Michelle became an employee at NWNT in May of 2004. In August of 2004 (3 months after she became employed there), to the best of my memory, is when she became one of my supervisors. She was terminated "on or about November 22, 2004???x?x?x (about 7 months total employment at NWNT).
In my opinion: based upon: my experience (with my employer NWNT and the callers I spoke with), documentation I have acquired and have read (some will be referenced):
1. The majority of charges were cramming. Both voice access and computer web sites.
2. The majority of Internet charges were done by: auto dialers; stealth dialers, spy ware, virus, pop-ups and Spam placed on the victim??s computers by the originating biller. The computer screen I saw on the database would show a originating ani (ani was the written description on the computer screen. I think the intent was to confuse csr??s. It was actually a term that referred to which account payment or debit was destine for) and a destination ani. The original ani a majority of the time was an 800-phone number (900 number or a 1010 number were others). The destination ani was a long string of number which when put in a computer would bring up a website (IP address). The amount of time on the caller's bill minimum was 2 minutes, my screen showed seconds.
October 29, 2004, for virus/dialer complaints: "Based on the destination Ani we are usually able to identify the problem and then forward the appropriate URL address and give them the assistance they need."?x The assistance they needed was to remove the infection from their computers.
3. The actions of the companies (lecs, customer service and billing) have created a Cramming Industry. Each has made a profit by handling these fraudulent charges. Why else would all of them, customer service companies, billing companies and lecs not identify the clients? I believe they have purposely sought out to represent the originating biller or billing company. Each time the lec and consumers became aware of cramming or regulatory prosecutions reached decision levels about a "client??, the number of in-bound calls would slow down at NWNT. Thousands of calls would come in every day then slow down to a trickle. Eventually a new "client" would be acquired, the "old client" in-bound calls would fade away until the database and phone log in would no longer be necessary. The same cycle would occur with the "new client".
When I was hired in June 2001 the ??new client?? was USP&C.
??On April 23, 2001, the Commission issued Decision (D) 01-04-036, which found that respondent, USP&C, Inc. (USP&C), served as the billing agent for $51.5 million of billings to California customers. USP&C present billings for service providers that conducted business under several different unregistered aliases, and that also used up to four different names for identical services. Of the total amount billed by USP&C during this period, $27 million (52%) was refunded at the customer??s request. The remaining $24.5 million, however, was collected by USP&C, and was forwarded to the service providers, net of the fee charged by USP&C.??# ???Kimposed a fine of $1,750,000. The Commission also ordered USP&C to show cause why it (1) should not be required to disgorge all amounts retained from unauthorized billings, and (2) should not be fined for failing to comply with other provisions ?K The Decision also order all California incumbent local exchange carriers to cease billing for USP&C.??# ??May 24,2004, the Superior Court for the County of San Francisco granted the Commission??s motion for judgment on the pleadings and entered judgment for $1.75 million, plus interest, against USP&C.??# ???Kat the time of USP&C ??s violations required that the billing agent provide a clear and concise description of the service for which the charge was imposed?K?K.required the name, address, and phone number of the party responsible for generating the charge be included on the bill?KFebruary 10, 2004, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York unsealed an indictment against members of the Gambino crime family and USP&C for their participation in a nationwide scheme that, much like USP&C??s action in California, placed unauthorized charges on the local telephone bills of millions of consumers included racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, and sought the forfeiture of $430 million in criminal proceeds.??# ??Victims who called the 1-800 numbers asking for free samples unwittingly kicked over a recurring monthly charge on their phone bills from USP&C, according to prosecutors, charges made to resemble standard phone charges hiding the adult entertainment services and psychic hotline triggers. This was believed to be good for $50,000-60,000 a day from 1997 through 2001 and over $420 million gross overall, prosecutors said.??##
The next ??new client?? was Alyon Technologies around April 2003.
??In May 2003, the FTC charged Alyon and its principal, Stephen Touboul, with illegally billing and collecting for videotext services purportedly accessed on the Internet. Over time, 16 state attorneys general??s filed similar charges against Alyon in state courts. According to the FTC, the defendants downloaded a modem-dialing program onto consumers? computers, allegedly after consumers clicked on a button to agree to the terms and conditions for such a download. The dialing program then disconnected consumers from their own Internet service providers and reconnected them to the defendants? network. The defendants captured the telephone number used by the modem and matched it against databases of line subscriber information. The line subscribers identified as responsible for captured telephone numbers later received bills charging them $4.99 a minute for each minute the defendants claimed video services were purchased, regardless of whether the telephone subscribers authorized the purchase. The FTC alleged that many consumers never visited the defendants? sites at all, and were charged due to billing service errors of which the defendants were aware. Other line subscribers were billed because a minor child or someone else in their household accessed the services without the line subscriber??s authorization.?? ??December 6, 2004. The settlement provides that consumers who were billed for adult services used on or before June 15, 2003 and who disputed the charges to the defendants on or before January 15, 2004 will be credited. Consumers who were billed for services used on or before June 15, 2003, but who did not pay or dispute the charges, will have the opportunity to dispute the charges in writing and qualify to have the debt forgiven. The defendants may continue to bill those consumers.??### ??May 15,2003 Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today announced that the State of Connecticut will be suing Alyon Technologies, Inc. for billing consumers for Internet services they never ordered?K.consumers who never requested the company??s service. Often, consumers were not home at the time the alleged Internet access took place. The Attorney General??s Office has received a number of complaints from senior citizens who do not even own computers but were billed by Alyon.??####
The next ??new client?? was One Call Communications, USBI, ESBI, ZPDI, Opticom and Optiview around February 2004.
??Records show that by 2003, the company had revenue of more than $270 million. To an industry database, it had about 400 employees. In a statement last year (2005), they employed 70 at its Carmel headquarters.??#####
??One way One Call is trying to extricate itself from burgeoning consumer complaints is state regulators lack Jurisdiction.??##### Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and FCC are all mention in this article.
I believe this cycle will continue and cell phones and text messaging will be the next area to be crammed. The customer service, billing companies and phone companies will aid and abet the fraud, protect the "clients" entering into a conspiracy in the name of profit. I believe they all should be held responsible for their actions but I can only give information on NWNT where my experiences occurred.
4. I recommended a search, on the Internet, if you believe you are a victim of cramming: Class Action, Cramming. According to one web site I visited, to the best of my knowledge, attorneys who specialize in class action suits can not get access to the victims names, Government Investigative Agencies can not give out this information and the lecs have refused to give it upon request. To the best of my knowledge, victims can file complaints with either: in their state the Attorney General's Office, the PUC, Consumer Advocates, the FCC and the FTC.
5. To the best of my knowledge, in some states, when a credit has been issued to the victim??s charges that they are not a victim any longer. No victim, No crime. When I turned in memos to management at NWNT informing them of callers who stated after my issuing a credit they would file a complaint with a government agency many times they laughed, I can't document that, I can only say it was done. Other states allow the victim to pursue the case despite having been issued a credit.
Before my termination with NWNT I had reached the same conclusions as Michelle posted. I admire her courage for posting at that time. I want to tell you what happened to her and give you additional information, documented to the best of my ability.
From the Lawsuit:
"Specifically, Alexander stated that "U.S.B.I./Z.P.D.I., owner Jack Lawless is ripping Americans off by fraudulently putting virus, auto dialers and spyware on (customers') computers, thus adding bogus charges to (their) phone bills, for which (they) are paying thousands of dollars a year for," and that "(m)ost of these charges go unnoticed, which go right into Mr. 'Lawless's' pocket."?x?x?x
"Alexander's statements are completely false because Lawless has no ownership in USBI, ZPDI, or the dialer service Alexander described. USBI and ZPDI merely provide billing services for some of NWNT's customers, but are otherwise totally separate and independent entities. Moreover, NWNT does not market, bill, or share in the profits of USBI, ZPDI, or the said dialer service."?x?x?x "Neither NWNT nor Lawless host, create or own any dialer software or spyware and therefore have no ability to distribute such dialers and software.???x?x?x
September 30, 2004, "If a customer inquires who the billing company is: One Call Com is the parent company. Opticom is the Operator Services Division. ZPDI, USBI and ESBI are billing clearinghouse that process records on behalf of several carriers."?x
Refer to NWNT's web site for additional information on dialers availability.?x?x?x?x
Check websites on the net. Read my posting. Make your own decision based on the information available.
From the Lawsuit:
"Alexander also misrepresented that Lawless's employees "are told at no time to be honest and to give the customer a credit, they are only to offer the customer a 'Block' only."?x?x?x
May 10, 2003, "Attempt to sustain the credit on every call you receive. After you tell the customer what the charge is for, offer to block the phone number from any further access to our clients' services."?x
May 25, 2003, ??It has been brought to my attention that many of you are asking the caller if they want to dispute the charge. The script you are to use does not say for you to ask the caller if they want to dispute the charge. It is very important to try to sustain the credit. Always offer to block and then pause. Let the caller take it from there. Nor do I want to hear you grilling the caller in order to get them to say they are disputing the charge. If you are having problems with sustaining credit, ask Sharon to give you some pointers.???x
??What is the charge on my bill? 1) This is a charge for access to an Internet service. Prior to connection, rates are fully disclosed. Someone in your household has used your computer to access one of a number of worldwide Internet sites which are supported by this Internet service. 2) If you would like, I can block your phone number from any further access to our clients?? services in the future. 3) If after offering to block their phone number, the customer disputes the charge in any way, you may offer ??a one time courtesy credit?? Do not offer to credit unless after you have offered a block the customer disputes the charge.??
November 23, 2004, "It is also important to maintain the credits. By following the script, you should be able to block only many of the calls."?x
"After you explain the charge: If you would like, I can block your phone number from any further access to our clients' services in the future. Response 1 Customer's Response 1= Yes, please do that, I do not want any future bill? Agent's Reply= I have put the block in place, there will be no further access." "Customer's Response 2= That is fine, but I am not going to pay this charge; what about this charge; do I still have to pay this; etc. Agent's Reply= The charges are valid, and you are responsible for charges to your phone line. Response 3 Customer's Response 3= I refuse to pay this, I can't afford this, I'll just call my phone company then, I'll be contacting the fcc, etc. Agent's Reply= Even though the call was traced to your line, I am authorized to issue a one time courtesy credit.???x?x?x?x?x
"This charge is for a call placed through One Call's Network. How may I help you? (pause) Customer's Questionfiltered=How did I get this charge? Agent's Response=The call was traced to your line through caller ID. Customer's Question=What is One Call Network? Agent's Response=A telecommunications company.
Customer's Question=How can I be charged for this, I don't have long distance? Agent's Response=This is a call placed through One Call's Network you do not need a long distance carrier. Customer's Question=What kind of charge is this? Agent's Response=It is a telecommunications charge which can be bill through 1010 calls. Customer's response=No one made this call. Agent's Response=Ok, let's do some troubleshooting. a) Have you checked with others in the home? b) Do you have any minor children? c) Do you have a computer, an alarm system or lifeline service, it is possible that the call came from one of those devices. Customer's Response=How can a computer make a phone call? Agent's Response= Most computers have a modem which makes a connection through the phone line. I can put a block on the line to prevent any future access to One Call's Network. Customer's Response 1=Yes, please do that, I do not want any future bill? Agent's Reply=I have put the block in place, there will be no further access. Customer's Response 2=That is fine, but I am not gong to pay this charge; what about this charge; do I still have to pay this; etc."?x?x?x?x?x (refer to above scripting for further answers)
From the Lawsuit:
"Contrary to Alexander's assertions, NWNT provides customer service under contract and trains its agents and employees to allow credits for first time users of the services in question, and if consumers request "blocking" of their phone numbers, the block indefinitely precludes them from accessing the services."?x?x?x "Additionally, NWNT demands that its agents and employees always be honest with consumers, and terminates agents or employees who fail to do so."?x?x?x
It was not a one-time credit, if a caller called back with prior or future charges they were also credited. A caller making a request did not get the credit, a caller had to refuse to pay (rtp note) or deny all knowledge but refuse to pay or threaten an action after the block had been put on (dak note). The notation first time user was not allowed for issuing a credit. The block did not preclude another client billing the phone. I spoke to callers who were billed by one client and several months later would get the same caller billed under another client.
November 4, 2004, "If a customer asks if there are any future charges, do not tell them that you see additional charges. Simply tell them that the charges do not post to our database until they have reached their phone bill."?x
September 24, 2004, "Effective Immediately: If a customer asks what the name of our company is, tell them Northwest Nevada Telco, not USBI. Northwest Nevada Telco handles customer service (for) a number of different companies."?x Prior to this memo we identified ourselves as customer service for the company on the bill and our location was never given as Reno, NV. In my opinion, this would make it difficult for anyone to be aware of NWNT is involved in the industry of cramming. You can't prosecute or sue if you don't know whom or where. It is also a definite lie.
"Escalation Form If your caller says that they are -an Attorney -a Law Enforcement Official -a representative of the following agencies: Attorney General's Office, Better Business Bureau, Public (Utilities/Service) Commission, FCC, FTC. Please respond: "The billing party is very interested in resolving your concerns; however, it is their policy to discuss specific information only with the end user. If I can get your name and a number where you can be reached, a company representative will contact you." DO NOT ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS, OR GIVE OUT COMPANY INFORMATION"?x
June 22, 2004, "If you receive a call and the requested credit is over $800, do not credit the account. Transfer the call to a floor lead."*++ "Any time you receive a call concerning charges to business telephone line, transfer the call to a floor lead."?x
April 21, 2004, "If you are not able to assist the customer, and the supervisor is on another call, you will need to take a memo with a call back number or request that the customer call back. Do not transfer to the supervisor's desk and drop the call into voice mail."*++
August 18, 2004, "When entering notes on an account, do not include such information as sup not available; unable to transfer, etc. Simply enter a note which states: John clld res req call from sup memo taken nnt xx"?x
In my opinion, based upon experience, I was processing memos that went back 5 plus months that did not receive their call backs from a supervisor. This was to delay issuing credit and keep the funds longer- big numbers, big interest ?V interest is not credited back to the consumer, to my knowledge.
In my opinion:
1. Michelle was trying to help, as she now believed, the victims of charges being crammed on their bills.
2. It takes time to come to the conclusions and opinion that both she, I and other employees (who I shall not name here) came to realize about the charges we were handling and about NWNT.
3. Michelle came to the conclusions faster, because as a supervisor she had more access to information than I.
4. The employee turnover was high (usually less than 3 months employed) in order for the customer service representatives to remain as ignorant as possible as to the bogus nature of the charges. Also the average hold time (time spent with each caller) had to be 3.5 minutes or under.
"The average hold time for your calls must be 3.5 minutes. This is the average length it takes for completing a call. By following the script, you should be able to maintain this hold time. Failure to maintain a hold time of 3.5 minute will result in disciplinary action."?x This is also found in Quality Control Disciplinary Guidelines.
5. Michelle, after becoming a supervisor, began to question the validity of the charges. I witness the retaliation done to her, which cumulated in her termination of employment. It became obvious to NWNT that her personal integrity would not allow her to assist in the fraud. It was that same personal integrity that caused her to post on the Internet. She empathized with the victims she spoke to and wanted to stop future victimization.
6. NWNT identifies itself as strictly customer service on these charges. I believe they also were also guilty of being a billing originator because of the information on their web site, billing on data base 7f, which identified the billing company as NV TELCO, doing paperwork and computer work for the issuance of checks for crediting charges and watching a supervisor preparing for mailing checks for credit made out to the lec and the billed party. Michelle, as a supervisor, came to the same conclusion for I believe the same reasons.
7. At the very least NWNT, all the customer service companies and billing companies that assist the originator biller is guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud and mail fraud. I base this opinion on all of the above and the scripts used and changed to describe the very same charge differently, depending upon which script was enforce at the time of the caller inquiry.
8. The damage to the victims, known and unknown is more than monetary.
9. The LEC that showed the same integrity toward their clients that Michelle displayed is Puerto Rico Telephone. We could no longer issue credit on charges when they tried to sue the entity that, as far as they knew, placed the cramming charges on their bills. I applaud their actions and wish they could be my lec.
During her employment at NWNT Michelle and I were not friends. I heard she posted on the Internet from another employee. I do not own a computer, not then, not now. I type on my word processor at home and take anything I need to the Library. I contacted Michelle up until then she did not know my opinion. The lawsuit was file on December 9, 2004.
Michelle wasn't able to find a attorney to assist her, she couldn??t pay. She tried to represent herself at the first Motion hearing on or about January 5, 2005. I testified as a witness, I was not allowed to be in the courtroom except when testifying. Michelle realized after that she did not have the ability to proceed, she had made an err in court in the filing (to the best of my knowledge). She left her life behind in Nevada and did not respond or appear in any further proceedings. She is still ??gone??.
Decision of the Court filed May 4, 2006: (XCENTRIC is ripoffreports.com)
??Plaintiffs, in their Complaint, allege Alexander defamed them and requested damages and injunctive relief. Defendant, XCENTRIC VENTURES,LLC (hereinafter, ??Xcentric??) challenged the jurisdiction of the Court and on July 25, 2005, Plaintiffs and Xcentric stipulated to dismiss, with prejudice, all claims against Xcentric.??**
??The Court has reviewed the pleadings, the arguments of counsel and the record. The Court notes Alexander, who appeared, pro se at the initial preliminary injunction hearing has not filed any pleadings or made any subsequent appearances.?? ?x?x?x
??The Court finds Plaintiffs have, pursuant to Berosini, supra., failed to adequately justify the requested fees. The Court declines to impose damages as one party was voluntarily dismissed from the case and the record is unclear which parties inflicted the majority of the damages.
Accordingly, and good cause appearing, Plaintiffs?? Application for Default Judgment is GRANTED, in part. Plaintiffs request for compensatory damages, in the amount of $1,000.00, is DENIED. Plaintiffs?? request for an award of attorney??s fees is DENIED. Plaintiffs request for costs, in the amount of $2,983.85, is GRANTED. Plaintiffs?? request for a permanent injunction is GRANTED.
Alexander is hereby ENJOINED from and shall not publish any additional reports or statements regarding Plaintiffs or their businesses which allege: ??U.S.B.I./Z.P.D.I., owner Jack Lawless is ripping Americans off by fraudently putting virus, auto dialers and spyware on (customers??) computers, thus adding bogus charges to (their) phones bills, for which (they) are paying thousands of dollars a year for,?? and that ??(m)ost of these charges go unnoticed, which go right into Mr. Lawless??s pocket.?? Alexander is further ENJOINED from further publishing Plaintiffs?? personal information.???x?x?x
Conclusion: My opinion
INDUSTRY OF CRAMMING, you can change it. When you shine a light under a rock all the bugs scurry away. Shine some lights. Put some media attention on these companies. The past billings that were never noticed, look for them or get the information to those who make the payments. Make the companies ethically responsible for how they make their profits. Contact your lawmakers in your state. Make the punishment higher than the profits realized from these kinds of activities. If you don??t do something it will continue with a new face but the same old activity.
I write this, now, because information is now available on the Internet on the previous and last ??new client?? at NWNT. I have identified NWNT, so did Michelle. NWNT was hidden from view, but to my knowledge no one has held a customer service company responsible. Yet, didn??t they also aid and abet in the conspiracy of fraud on the American People? Michelle was telling the truth, as she knew it. I keep thinking at Nuremberg the defense I was just following orders was not a justifiable defense. Is we were just customer service not the billing agent and our clients were billing companies acceptable? Once they knew, why did they continue to provide the service? How did they manage to provide customer service for one company after another that was involved in cramming?
If you choose to contact me, please, send me an email address for you so I can respond. I can type it up at home and take it to the Library to send it. Due to the hours I work many times the Library is closed when I get off work. I live in rural Nevada and there is no mail delivery at my home. Thank you.
?x from a Memo by NWNT
?x?x?x IN THE SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT OF THE STATE OF NEVADA IN AND FOR WASHOE COUNTY
Case No. CV04 02986
JACK LAWLESS, an individual; and NORTHWEST TELCO, INC., a corporation; Plaintiffs, VS. MICHELLE ALEXANDER, an individual: and XCENTRIC VENTURES, LLC.., aka badbusinessbureau.com LLC., d/b/a www.ripoffreport.com and www.badbusinessbureau.com;
DOES 1 throught 10, inclusive, and ROE CORPORATIONS 1 through 10, inclusive; Defendants.
?x?x?x?x www.nwnt.com or www.nwntdialer.com/
?x?x?x?x?x from a Script given to customer service representatives by NWNT
Web sites to visit:
Silver Springs, Nevada
U.S.A. Click here to read other Rip Off Reports on Alyon Technologies