Scammy "Joke Of The Day" Text Message Company Lets You Sign Anyone Up

Reader Stephen writes in to let us know that he somehow got signed up for a scammy “Joke of the Day” service that charged $9.99 to his Sprint account.

He was able to have the charges reversed and the service blocked, but wanted to warn others:

The other day, a Joke of the Day company tried signing me up to their texting service without my consent and immediately charged me $9.99 for the pleasure. I was able to get the charge reversed easily by calling customer service, but I know a lot of folks would think that simply unsubscribing via the instructions in the initial text message would be all they need to do. Normally I’d just let this sort of thing slide and wouldn’t try to submit it it to The Consumerist, but the CS rep I spoke with mentioned that it happened to her recently as well, so it’s likely that this company is hitting quite a few people up like this.

On his blog Stephen describes the mysterious text message:

So, Monday night/Tuesday morning, during the throes of another bout of “I can’t freaking fall asleep to save my sanity,” my cel phone starts chiming with a text message at 12:17AM. Half a minute later, there’s another text message alert. I drag myself out of bed, worried that some sort of disaster has hit friend or family, only to find that some jackasses at a Joke of the Day business had signed me up for their service without my asking. The two messages were congratulating me on signing up and giving me my special pin number. Too groggy and angry to deal with it right away, I just assumed there would be more messages coming and turned the phone off for the night in a vain effort to get some much needed rest.

6 mostly sleepless hours later, I turn my phone back on and find that there were indeed more messages, including the day’s joke. I’m reprinting it below so nobody has to cough up $9.99 for the one-month membership to receive this gem.

Joke of the Day:
Q: What did the doctor say when the patient complained, “Doctor, I feel stiff in the joints?”
A: “Then stay out of the joints!”

Wow. That joke is actually worse than we thought it would be. We took a look at the website Stephen mentions and it looks like you can enter any random phone number and doing so signs it up for the service. Great. That’s evil.

JokeMobi.com Tried To Screw Me Out Of Ten Bucks A Month And All I Got Was This Lousy Post [Kung Fu Rodeo]
(Photo:now brewing)

Comments

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  1. darkened says:

    Well now i know what to do for people that piss me off.

  2. GitEmSteveDave says:

    Ex’s of the world, prepare to laugh!

  3. snoop-blog says:

    @darkened: i still prefer the standard ass whooping for those who piss me off. call me old fashioned.

  4. LikeYourFace says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: I’m torn between laughing at your vindictiveness and empathizing with the poor slobs being roused out of a comfortable sleep for a bad joke. It sounds like the setup for a crappy horror movie: “You hear the ring, and then you die!” “The pun’s coming from inside the house!” etc….etc…etc…

  5. SVreader says:

    I didn’t order this pizza!

    Very lousy. Not only do they try to take your money, they inflict horrible jokes on you? You know a bunch of kids are going to do this to each other and their parents are going to be floored by the bills.

  6. kris in seattle says:

    Oh my gosh, this is foul.

  7. Mills says:

    That has got to be the lamest way to seek revenge. Ever.

  8. GitEmSteveDave says:

    @Mills: Then call me Lamey McLamester. No seriously. I didn’t do this. Yet.

  9. meadandale says:

    Report this company to your carrier. As someone who develops SMS based applications, I can tell you that carriers are usually very conservative when it comes to approving SMS applications on their networks and they usually require a double opt-in procedure in order for a user to successfully subscribe (to avoid this kind issue) even for services that the user isn’t charged for. In this case, the company would likely be banned from the network for this kind of behavior.

  10. JPropaganda says:

    Site says you need to confirm online with the pin code they message you. That doesn’t seem unreasonable…

  11. GitEmSteveDave says:

    @LikeYourFace: The only reason I’m vindictive is because of her. I used to be such a nice boy.

  12. spryte says:

    That picture is scaring me!!

    This sounds like another “new technology that the laws haven’t caught up with” problem. Of course, the law tends to move slower than a turtle on quaaludes.

  13. se7a7n7 says:

    I think they fixed it. I tried it and now you have to enter a pin # that they text to the phone…

    bummer

  14. GitEmSteveDave says:

    @svreader: That sounds like the opening to a few “adult” movies I’ve seen. The pizza line, that is.

  15. spryte says:

    @JPropaganda: But the OP says he was charged for the service without confirming online. That is not reasonable, IMO.

  16. disavow says:

    @JPropaganda: Except most U.S. cell phone carriers charge you to *receive* text messages.

  17. Mollyg says:

    The terms and conditions on the website state that in order to sign up and get billed, you must enter the phone number onto the website AND enter the pin that they will send to you.
    From what the OP says, it appearers that the terms and conditions is lying, which is outright fraud.

  18. MercuryPDX says:

    @spryte: Imagine if they didn’t photoshop the middle finger off of the clown on the left.

  19. Nissan288 says:

    site’s down. maybe they’re feeling the heat already…

  20. Balisong says:

    I’m wishing I hadn’t deleted some phone numbers now…

  21. rmontcal says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: Ex’s of the world, prepare to laugh!
    Seriously? This is probably one of the funniest lines I’ve ever read. Nicely done.

  22. deepsprint says:

    In order for this garbage to get on your bill you have to respond to an initial text message explaining what it is and what it costs to confirm with a Y for yes.

    The percentage of people who get taken by premium text messaging who admit that they did it is less than 5%. I don’t believe him.

  23. trollkiller says:

    Damn it, I don’t have the cell phone numbers of the people I really don’t like.

  24. trollkiller says:

    Anybody have sHillary’s phone number?

  25. SmoovyG says:

    @JPropaganda: Yeah, they sent me a special message with a pin code. Rather than cuse it to confirm that I wanted a service I never asked for, I instead opted to send them the “STOP” text to cancel the account, per their instructions. Nonetheless, when I called Sprint I had a charge on my account already, less than 12 hours after the initial messages.

    @deepsprint: Actually, there was never a message like that – just the initial “Welcome and thanks for ordering our service!” text. Which, of course, was total BS.

  26. VicMatson says:

    Sprint can stop it, they are the ones that allow these scammers to bill! Of course Sprint would not make it’s usual cut of the $9.99.

  27. doormat says:

    I’ve got a worse joke:

    Jessica is starting to get into Bingo. You could say she is a dabbler.

  28. Tzepish says:

    @JPropaganda: “Site says you need to confirm online with the pin code they message you. That doesn’t seem unreasonable…”

    …but that’s obviously not the case, since this guy was charged anyway.

  29. aparsons says:

    I’ll write a loop tonight in PERL that will loop from 0000000001 to 9999999999 and auto submit the form. I’ll be sure to short wireless stock beforehand, though.

  30. proginoskes says:

    I tried to send them a comment on their Contact page with a throwaway return email address (Sneakemail.com rocks.) and it wouldn’t continue until I entered a “valid” cell phone number as well. (I entered 5555555555.) Do you think that if I gave them my cell phone number on this Contact form that I would be signed up for their service without my consent?

  31. proginoskes says:

    Oh, and I’m not sure if it went through. The result page said it was successful but also reported a PHP error message.

  32. TechnoDestructo says:

    @aparsons:

    You might want to narrow that down a bit to only include actual area codes, and, if you can, to only include cell phone prefixes.

    And you REALLY might want to exclude 911xxxxxxx from that.

  33. redpeppers20xx says:

    Same thing happened to me but on VERIZON. It wasn’t the joke of the day it was some ‘how to flirt’ garbage.

    I called VZW CS and was told this:

    -it’s not our problem…it’s between you and the party offering the service.

    -it’s up to YOU to contact the service and get the 9.99 credited back

    -these things don’t just happen…YOU had to have activated this service of your own free will…these wouldn’t just start coming to you unless you requested the ‘service’.

    -it’s your fault you have these fraudulent charges and we can’t fix it for you.

    -If the offending service won’t give you your 9.99 back you are SOL. VZW doesn’t issue credits for this sort of thing because it’s not a VZW service.

    I feel vindicated! I am not alone! I wish I could email this to that CSR and see her squirm.

  34. uclajason says:

    My mother got signed up erroneously. I actually went to the joke of the day website and sent them an email and they immediately canceled and offered to send a money order for the amount charged. I also called sprint and sprint put an order on the account saying the only way that a service like this can be added to the phone is by verbal authorization.

  35. iamme99 says:

    If you’re going to do this to someone, make sure to use a proxy IP addr which can’t be traced.

  36. mexicantvdinner says:

    Once my girlfriend saw this story, she wanted to add the random number that started calling her. It was an obvious wrong number but after talking to her five times, they didn’t quite get the hint and would not stop calling until 15 minutes later. Unfortunately (or if you want to be all moral…fortunately), it was a Mexico-based number so she couldn’t sign them up. Pity…

  37. proginoskes says:

    @iamme99: JokeMobi.com displays a stolen ancient CellularOne logo. CellularOne became Cingular, AT&T, Cingular Is The NEw AT&T… whatever. I doubt they could produce the IP address you used if anyone asked them.

    Their web site hosting company might be able to, on the other hand. Cover your ass.

  38. proginoskes says:

    (Oops. Looks like someone else really is operating under that brand name now. Don’t mind me; I’m just clueless.)

  39. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @Mills: One joke service? Lame, yes.

    Ten joke services, three daily-astrology services, and seven inspirational Bible-quote services? Now THAT is some vengeance.

  40. BrianH says:

    Yep this happened to my wife. I called Sprint (expecting a fight) but they took care of it & blocked premium services, whatever the f*** they mean by that.

    What was so shocking was that Sprint billed me on behalf of these f***ers without ever getting our consent.

    In other words, if JokeMobi had sent a bill, I would have laughed my ass off & ignored it. But Sprint puts JokeMobi ahead of their own customers.

    Unbelievable.

    P.S. This was about 2 months ago. And I realized as soon as I went to their website & saw the “sign up” page, that unfortunately it would be the perfect way to screw someone.

  41. BrianH says:

    @deepsprint: believe what you want, but they absolutely do not wait to get any confirmation before they charge you.

  42. Zimorodok says:

    @BrianH: “But Sprint puts JokeMobi ahead of their own customers.”

    JokeMobi IS their customer. Or more accurately, their business partner. Sprint gets a percentage of every recurring charge that goes onto your bill.

  43. goodkitty says:

    @uclajason: A money order? What? That sounds like either the joke (of a) company is a one-person outfit, or that money order will be for $150, could you please cash it, send us $100 and keep the overage for yourself…

  44. dvdchris says:

    @deepsprint: Absolute crap. In 2006 before I started blogging and reading consumerist I was hit by recurring charges for $9.99/mo from Dadamobile for a ringtone service I had never signed up for from a company I had never heard of. I didn’t catch it the first month it appeared but after three months I called Sprint to inquire about the charges. Yes, I should have caught it sooner. I was getting a text in the middle of the night, like 3am that said,
    “Need new hot content 4 ur mob? Check http://www.dadamobile.com or txt LIST to 63232. U have 40 downloads for $9.99/month only. 2 cancel txt STOP. Help?info@dadamobile.com”

    So this company allows you to enter a phone number on their website to subscribe you to any number of their ‘services.’ They then require you to enter a confirmation pin to confirm the subscription to begin billing you. I never signed up for this service and never confirmed any pin on their site which I had never been to. Looking into the company, I’m not the only one this has happened to. It turns out they have an affiliate program where referrers get paid $6 per person they sign up. I found one site where over 200 people had commented the same thing happening to them with Dadamobile. Apparently a lot of people get signed up for this crap and never enter a confirmation pin. I was furious at Sprint, they offered to take the current month’s charge off but ‘could not’ unsubscribe me from the ‘service.’ That I had to do by calling Dadamobile. The first time I called them I was disconnected while waiting for the correct CSR, but finally spoke to someone and unsubscribed. The CSR confirmed my phone number had been subscribed from their website.
    The cell companies are complicit in these scams against their customers and should be held accountable for dealing with these scummy companies.

  45. Haltingpoint says:

    Allow me to provide a little insight from the other side of the curtain.

    This site seems very typical of all of the FlyCell affiliate sites I see although I’m not sure if this is an affiliate site or the parent site (that does not provide an affiliate program).

    This has been the latest rage w/ affiliate marketers for the past several years and the market is completely saturated, causing affiliates to resort to less than scrupulous means of acquiring conversions.

    Recent laws that were passed made it harder to activate the service since before all they needed was for you to enter your cell phone number. Hence the language around requiring a pin although I wouldn’t be surprised if this is an affiliate in a country outside the US who doesn’t have any regard for the fraud they are committing by charging without the pin.

    If you hunt around the Digital Point forums a bunch, there are HUNDREDS of threads dedicated to this kind of thing.

    What I’ve always wondered though is since the market is so saturated…what kind of ROI is to be had from the people who advertise this on TV? I assume they are just affiliates trying to reach the mass market.

  46. Mr. Gunn says:

    Never text message in response to anythign you see on TV, especially not for contests or polls as part of a show, because you will often be signed up for something automatically. Everyone should check their cellphone bills, because the charge will be hidden way down at the end. I had some company do this to me and it was hard to trace it back because they changed names so often. When I called ATT, though, they refunded me the past 6 months of charges and issued a credit for charges before that.

    Lesson learned – even if you have one of the famous 60-page ATT bills, if it’s more than you think it should be, read through to the end looking for an itemized charge.

  47. nowbrewing says:

    i took this pic and the scariest part is that the clown in the middle is in prison for murder. no joke.

  48. mrredsun says:

    This Joke-of-the-Day service was added to my Verizon service unsolicited. I don’t have a messaging plan, so I get charged 15 cents per SMS and I rarely use the service. The first message sent me a PIN and said that if I responded with that PIN I would be signed up for the Joke-of-the-Day. About a minute after that (without responding to the initial SMS), I started getting crappy jokes via SMS. Four more got through before I called Verizon to complain. I was told by the service rep that they couldn’t cancel it on their end; I had to text “STOP” to the Joke-of-the-Day people. She also said that since the service was “double opt-in” that there was no way I could get signed up for it involuntarily. After five minutes of explaining how this could not possibly be double opt-in, I give up and just do as she says.

    Afterward (with the same rep), I tried to get all unsolicited SMS messages blocked. Apparently, this is something that Verizon can’t do. They allow you to block either all SMS messages or none.

    When the Joke-of-the-Day service charge showed up on my bill, I called Verizon and got the unwanted service charge and SMS charges credited. They can’t tell where your messages come from, so the rep will have to get SMS credits approved by a supervisor. If you’re having trouble with a service rep that won’t reverse the charges, just keep calling back until you get one that will. Also, you could try to contact Verizon via the service e-mail on their site. The last time I did that I got a call the next day from a very helpful service rep.

  49. dvdchris says:

    @mrredsun: So it happened to you too. How are these companies still in business? Why haven’t they been sued into oblivion?

  50. Spooty says:

    Well, I guess the good news is that that site is now defunct, 4.5 months later.