Thursday, June 23, 2011

ESBI scam and Verizon's complicity

ESBI is some sort of outfit that charges for unordered services through Verizon and other phone service providers. They are a scam operation. Here's my story.

My Verizon bill, not a small one, comes monthly and with two land lines and four smart phones operating, plus maybe a movie or two ordered by my daughters, I usually just pay the bill pretty much unexamined. This month the bill seemed to be a little bloated unless someone made way too many land line long distance calls or viewed more pay films than usual. I examined the multi-page bill and found a $14.95 charge from ESBI(?) labeled "miscellaneous charges" billed on behalf of "Total Protection Plus" for "Electronic Fax Mofee". What the heck?

I found a phone number for ESBI and they explained that I had signed up for an ongoing monthly plan to send faxes directly from my computer. I had done no such thing, and have a fax capability already. They explained that they were just a collection agency and some other outfit had told them that I had agreed to this service. Not so I said, but they said that I had without a doubt responded to a pop-up and given appropriate information and permission. Not so, and I am sure of that because the number that it was assigned to is my personal land line that is used only by me for business purposes. No one else in the family touches it.

Then, of course, I called Verizon and questioned the charge. They gave me some rigamarole about how the FCC requires them to honor all charges that have been authorized and add them to the bill. They were adamant that they had no responsibility. I asked to speak to a supervisor but that request was refused as I was told that the supervisor would give the same answer. I asked to speak to the legal dept. and was told that there would be at least a 45 minute wait on hold and I would still receive the same answer. I admit to making a quick curse and hanging up.

Then I went to Google and other search engines and found numerous complaints about this scam. Many people have seen these charges come through with no clue as to how they originated. I called Verizon again and of course spoke to another representative who gave the same answer. I said "do I need to call the New York State Attorney General's office and lodge a complaint on my own when there are an entire class of people being hit by this scam that is facilitated by Verizon?" The Verizon rep's answer was go ahead and do that. We are only following FCC rules.

Then I called ESBI again with the same information about what I found on the search engines and a threat to report them to authorities. They then agreed to reverse the charge and end the "contract". We will now see what happens and if they follow through. Of course I have already deducted their charge from my just paid monthly bill with appropriate comment that will no doubt screw up Verizon's automated bill processing. Ha! for little victories, maybe.

Several conclusions: given the size of these wireless and land line phone bills it is almost a certainty that many people are not noticing the extra charge; ESBI is acting illegally; and Verizon is acting irresponsibly at best, illegally at worst.

Be forewarned and check your bills. I am absolutely certain that I never signed up for this service, and my search results bear out the fact that this is a scam that Verizon and maybe other carriers refuse to step up to and take any responsibility for halting.

Postscript: During the review of search engines, I see that there are a few apparently legitimate firms with the acronym ESBI, further confusing matters. The one in question stands for Enhanced Billing Services Inc.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today I just found out this same company has been doing this to us. We rarely closely examine our Verizon bill with the exception of calling them a few times, noticing the bill to be higher than it is supposed to be. Thankfully, we have all of our Verizon bills from years ago. I found out ESBI has been charging us $40.00 each month for over a year!!!! I can't believe it! What is really scary?? The 'manager' i spoke to played a voice recording of my 'dad' saying he owned a beauty store. They also had 'my dad' say the address which is in the next town over. I looked it up on google and mapquest the address they had on the recording was nonexistent. I could not believe they played a voice-over to us and swore it was my dad. In the recording they asked him to say his birth date which was not even close to what it really is. The voice they played was very mangled and we could barley make out what it was saying. They really went to extreme levels to play one on us. Not only after i mentioned my grandfather was a state trooper and my dad was a policeman and knew plenty of lawyers did Allison the 'manager' i spoke with issue a refund of nearly $600!!!! I made two phone calls. The first one they said i have only paid 5 months which i found to be a lie. I looked back to previous bills and then did I find over a years worth of charges. I have yet to go back further and see just how much they have charged over the years. The Federal Trade Commission issued lawsuit against them in 2001, I mentioned that as well. Verizon should really take part responsibility for allowing companies such as these to do this. They are definitely aware this is going on. I can see that from reading a few complaints out of hundreds i have seen listed. Everyone needs to be careful and play close attention to scams these days. It's really scary the lengths some companies and people will go to. Oh and don't even feel the need to be nice to them, I was not at all pleasant. They need a little discipline for what they are doing.

4:52 PM  

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