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Verification: The New Scam In Town

There’s a new scam in town.

Company calls over and over again (claiming to be the phone company, actually) just wanting to “verify your address”. Over and over again they get told we aren’t interested, leave us alone, don’t call. Finally, my solitary staffer gets sick of fending them off and goes through their voice activated “address verification”, during which a mechanical voice asks questions, followed by a command to “Say Yes or No, then press the pound key.”

So she goes through the innocuous questions, including her full name, the office address and phone number, plus several iterations of saying “Yes or No, then press pound.” The calls stop; everyone is happy.

Until I get the phone bill six weeks later. Lo and behold, there is an extra $49.99 charge (plus tax) from a company I never heard of. Multiple phone calls reveal it to be a company providing “Internet optimization, web services, and a toll free number,” stuff I neither need nor want.

I call to complain. I am told there exists a recording of Solitary Staffer authorizing said services. I’ve actually heard this line before. “Let me hear it,” I demand. What usually happens is that said recording “cannot be found,” the services end up canceled, the account credited.

This time, though, they produce a recording of what is clearly SS’s voice saying her full name, the office address and phone number, plus the word “yes” several times. However the mechanical voice is saying things like, “Do you agree that you are authorized to incur charges at this number,” which SS clearly is not, knows she is not, and to which she never ever would have responded “Yes” and pressed the pound key.

Obviously they have taken clips of her voice and spliced them into whatever they wanted.

A nice touch is the “30 day free trial period” during which I could have stopped the service for free, the catch being that I received no notification until the phone bill six weeks later.

I yell, scream, moan politely demand that they discontinue the service and credit my account immediately. Although the first person I get on the line claims not to have the authority to do so, she puts me on hold for a while, then comes back and agrees to credit me $99.98 for the two billing cycles. Now I have to decide if it’s worth calling the phone company to get the $6.00 credit for the damn tax.

Take home lesson: be very leery of calls for “verification,” a word whose root comes from the Latin for “truth”, that now seems to portend naught but lies.

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

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