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Slammin' and Crammin'
The Winkler Post for July 29, 2010
... And you thought the Internet was a dangerous place to be?
John Reed ♦ July 29, 2010

Sitting back, relaxed, with refreshements close at hand... and one of those pesky pests called a telemarketer calls... "Nefarious" may be the better adjective, combined with "Slick".  Slicker than anything DuPont ever coated a skillet with.

After a brief session –albeit a curt session; you're back to watching "Army Wives" and the call is nothing more than groan and mumbled expletives.

Unbeknownst to you:  Your 'No' was actually a 'Yes'  and they may very well have you on digital-tape, falling nicely into their verbal trap that only an attorney could understand and disarm.

... Just one possible scenario of... –Those looking to make a dollar or two or twenty every month, as they are preying on your telephone number, praying that you won't be as slick as they are, when they call.

Not long after... 30 days or so; that quiet evening's telemarketer's efforts show up on your phone bill –or what you thought was your phone bill.  Your land-line telephone service may have "changed-hands" and the rates... What used to cost $1.99 now costs $5.99.  You've been "Slammed".

Fortunately, most users, along with AT&T (and other legitimate carriers) have made the "Slamming" scam quite difficult to accomplish.  However, there's another telephone scam that has reared its ugly head locally –"Cramming".  And, to add some severe insult to this wallet emptying service, it's carried out  Facilitated by the F.C.C. and the legitimate telephone carriers!

Before we get into some gory details –Insert these acronyms into your long-term memory –along with their definitions.

FCC – Federal Communications Commission

LEC billing – Local Exchange Carrier: The user (YOU) is charged through his account with the local telephone company, rather than directly from the provider of the service.

TPC – Third party charges –that show up on one's telephone bill.

APM – Alternative payment methods.  The "Fancy Name" for Third Party Charges

 The Gory Details –including some of the purveyors

It takes, usually, three parties to put the screws to one's wallet:  A no-good person or company that is "Selling" a product.  An intermediary company that contracts with the telephone carrier, that is allowed to actually initiate the TPC.  Then, of course the Telephone Carrier.  Sometimes it is quite difficult to determine the difference between parties one and two.  However, for this posting, we're going to allow The Second Party, ILD Teleservices (ILD Corp.)... ILD for short, to be the "Messenger" for services... And be "presumed innocent" until proven guilty.  The third player, the telephone carrier, is "protected" somewhat by the FCC's rules allowing the TPCs to actually take place.  Nevertheless, in our opinion, the "legitimate" partners in this crime are more than culpable, as is the FCC –for allowing/facilitating the process.

The "Players" in this REAL scenario are AT&T, ILD Teleservices and a company named Monthly Ringtones, LLC-MT and of course one unsuspecting Winkler County citizen.

That said, if one Googles ILD and or MonthlyRingtones:  There's enough information to sway any person's opinion of either company.

What happens... As far as we were able to find.

MonthlyRingtones is a real entity –at least on the web.  Their web site indicates an address in Atlanta, Georgia.  And, for $12.95 per month, one can download an unlimited number of ringtones to billed via ILD.  No Other Payment Option Is Offered.  Monthly Ringtones services, are considered Enhanced Telecommunications Services (from their web site)... This verbiage gives them a certain degree of "legitimacy" in their actions –perhaps only to ILD?

To LEGITIMATELY purchase from their web site –entails the normal "fill-in-the-form" type process, followed by some email confirmation(s).  A convoluted process that is fully described on their site and a process that takes Deliberate Actions on the part of the "customer"... Which could NOT be considered "Cramming".

HOWEVER!  If a person is actually Searching for someplace to download ringtones; and initiates a general search for "Ringtones" on ANY of the major search engines... They would have to wade through 70 million sources  –"Monthly Ringtones" is NOT in the first 15 pages of links on a Google search (we did not look any further).  That very fact of being (or Not being) leads us to some other conclusion as to how that "Sale" was actually made.

As far as we can tell; knowing for a fact the victim did not authorize the purchase, there are only two ways for this transaction to happen:  [1]  The "Pesky Telemarketer" with their slicker than slick spiel or [2]  A phone-number list was purchased and used in nefarious ways.

If the latter scenario is correct, and since "Cramming" is actually Illegal, seems to us that All Three of the parties have now become partners in that crime.  In this case, AT&T, ILD and Monthly Ringtones, LLC.

Again, as we prepped this story:  Searching for "Cramming" in general, there was an over abundance of complaints –many (an understatement) having a common thread: ILD and AT&T.  Being a little more specific in search terms, "ILD Cramming"... You'll spend the rest of your web life clicking links.  And again, that same common thread was prevalent.

Are ILD and AT&T the only culprits?  No.  Cramming is prevalent on many of the major telephone carriers.  In fact, one of the major "crime families" in New York operated a Cramming Service and in 2007, according to the National Association of Attorneys General, cramming was the 4th most common consumer complaint.

Carriers –ALL carriers "hide" behind the FCC's rulings that allow TPC to happen.  However, Verizon does in fact have a FREE customer service called "Bill Block" that prevents TPCs without their customer's consent.  AT&T, on the other hand, details a "What to Do" list –which the local resident DID... And after quite some time on the telephone with AT&T and ILD solved the "problem".

Crammers "Count On" the telephone customer NOT actually reading their phone bills and if they (the crammers) get by with their TPC for several months then get caught –subsequently removing their TPC, they've already made a ton of money from unsuspecting phone customers.  The "Messenger" also made a pretty healty commission as well.

There are some Very Easy lessons to be learned here.

First and foremost –Read Your Phone Bill –Line By Line.  If a charge looks suspicious, don't be bashful and don't waste time... CALL your service provider!

When your provider sends you to the person/company that is Charging your account... BE PERSISTENT!  Don't settle for anything less than what you want!

File (Quickly!) A Legitimate Complaint with not only your telephone service/carrier, but with the Attorney General of your state detailing the experience –And, don't forget the Federal Trade Commission and the FCC.

We have placed a few resource links below and advise anyone with a telephone to educate themselves.  With the current economy as it is, the number of folks looking to make a buck using other than legitimate means... At your expense –is growing exponentially.


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