DirecTV Says My Being Out Of Town Is An Explanation For Mystery Porn Charges

We’re sure cable companies constantly get calls from parents complaining about pay-per-view porn charges that no one in their house will own up to. But apparently folks at the satellite provider also thinks people are breaking into empty houses just to watch overpriced T&A.

Consumerist reader Dave says he was reviewing his most recent DirecTV bill, covering mid-December to mid-January when he noticed that there were two unspecified pay-per-view charges for $14.99 each on his bill.

Furthermore, he noticed they were also from early November, during which time he’d been out of town on business. And, oh yeah, in his ten years as a DirecTV customer, he’d never once ordered a PPV movie, certainly not one that cost him fifteen bucks.

“So I call up DirecTV and they tell me there’s nothing they can do,” writes Dave. “They wouldn’t even tell me what the pay per view selections were. I had to badger them into revealing that they were adult titles, though they wouldn’t tell me the titles. Don’t I have the right to know what type of porn I’m being charged for?”

“I kept trying to point out to them that I live alone, that I had no house guests during this time and was in fact hundreds of miles away at the time these movies were ordered,” says Dave, who also offered to e-mail proof of his business trip to DirecTV. “When the CSR heard that last part, he tells me ‘Oh, well there you go! Someone must have used your DirecTV while you were out of town,’ as if that is a reasonable assumption that I should have made from the start.”

Dave says he had to point out that it’s absolutely absurd to think that someone managed to sneak into his house without tripping the alarm and chose to watch a couple of porn films — over the course of two days, mind you — but didn’t steal any of his TVs, computers or “the actual box of porn DVDs that are not terribly well-hidden in my bedroom closet.”

At this point, says Dave, the CSR went silent for a minute before offering to credit his account, not the full $29.98, but six monthly credits of $5 each.

“I thought that was an insult,” says Dave. “Some error happens on their end and they charge me $30, but even though I’ve been a dedicated customer for a decade and have never once had to dispute a charge, they suddenly don’t believe me and want to hold on to my cash for a few extra months.”

Dave ultimately had to escalate his complaint to a supervisor, who agreed — with the usual “We’ll make a one-time exception” scolding — to credit the full amount to his next bill.

“It’s not even about the money to me,” explains Dave. “I really just wanted them to look into how these charges could end up on my bill, but then they started treating me like some liar with porn-buyer’s remorse. If my only other choice for cable wasn’t Comcast, I’d have cancelled my account then and there.”

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  1. Hotscot says:

    If a company makes a mistake and refuses to admit it is there no avenue of redress?

    Is this customer being libeled by them saying he downloaded porn?

    • RandomHookup says:

      I’m guessing the redress is “mandatory binding arbitration”. (or possibly the public service commission or AG).

      • Cat says:

        I would try that if I could find a hot chick that was into mandatory binding arbitration.

        • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

          Can I surmise from this comment and your earlier “black buns” comment that you’re a frisky kitty today?

    • Jimmy60 says:

      It’s only libelous if they start telling everyone and it isn’t true. They didn’t even want to tell him so it’s far from libel.

  2. RandomHookup says:

    This is a follow-on to the post below about cutting costs:

    * Cut the cord — If mooching off your friends doesn’t work after you cancel cable, find empty neighborhood houses and slip in while they are away. Most people don’t check their bills closely.

  3. dwtomek says:

    These are hard times. Clearly what happened here was that some entrepreneurial scofflaw noted an empty house with DirecTV and decided to open an impromptu adult filmhouse. No pants? No problem!

  4. LightningUsagi says:

    People pay for porn?

  5. Darrone says:

    But I don’t even like Milfs! I’m totally into Asians.

  6. GMFish says:

    Oh, well there you go! Someone must have used your DirecTV while you were out of town

    It’s so logical. If you were there, it must have been you. If you weren’t there. It must have been someone else.

    • runswithscissors says:

      OR, someone with a compatible remote control stood outside his window in the bushes and ordered/watched it from there!

  7. scoutermac says:

    I had directv for 10 years. I switched to Dish Network and I am happy with them.

  8. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    I don’t know how long Consumerist Reader Dave was out of town, but DirecTV allows you to suspend your account for a certain amount of time. You can call them and say you’ll be away for a month and they’ll turn it off and then turn it back on when you return. You don’t get charged during the downtime.

    I don’t know if they’ll do it for say a week at a time, but it might be something to try next time just to make sure this can’t happen. That is, unless you were wanting to DVR some stuff while you were gone.

    • frizo says:

      The (hated) cable company I used to work for would allow a seasonal/vacation rate (I think it was like $8 a month) if you were out of town for a month or longer.

      If your cable/satellite provider knows your account was in that dormant state you should have a much easier time getting any “phantom” charges removed.

  9. feistydonut says:

    Dude…. I used to work there as an ‘entertainment consultant’ we got those calls all day long. People swearing on their mother’s grave that they did not order the porn. Pissed off wives calling in ‘my husband says he didn’t do it!’ and demanding a refund. The policy (as of about 15 years ago) was to negotiate a credit and then make them put a password on their system so that the house 5 miles away doesn’t accidentally order them porn again with them feisty IR waves coming from a remote hitting the clouds at just the right angle.

    Favorite call like that was a wife screaming at me ‘I was OUT of town and my husband and 3 nephews did NOT order the porn!!!’ I ask to speak with the husband and offer half credit (the bill was $150 just for the weekend spankfest) and completely calm he says he’ll take it and tells the the wife who flips her lid and yells at me more. Yeah, he didn’t order it….

    • HoJu says:

      HA! I love meeting people with jobs like this. It’s a GREAT conversation starter to simply say “Wow, you must have a LOT of awesome stories.”

    • manus manum lavat says:

      So very much this.

      People are always calling in to claim that they didn’t actually order that porn, month after month.

      My favorite call like that, though, was a confused college student who asked me what the titles were. When I read them off, he basically instantly knew that it was his roomate and said something to the effect of “that dumb fucker.” Ha ha.

      It was always terrible talking to wives, though. Sometimes I worried that I might be breaking up someone’s marriage.

    • Ducatisti says:

      I can only imagine how frustrating and sad some of those calls would be. Oh, and funny.

      We set up a password the minute we had the system connected. It’s only the two of us, but it’s always good to add a layer of security when you can.

      I would be curios if what this guy is saying is even remotely possible – could something like this get billed to the wrong account? It seems like a very strange “glitch”.

      • StarKillerX says:

        Yeah, seems to me that if this were a “glitch” it wouldn’t happen twice in a short period of time and then never again or after. I have to wonder if a friend or family member has access to his place?

  10. Cat says:

    Has Ghost Hunters been notified of this?

  11. sadie kate says:

    I don’t know why, but I am completely cracking up over the OP blithely informing the CSR that he has an entire box of porn in his closet, and that negates the need for anyone to order overpriced DirectTV porn. That is kind of awesome.

    • scoosdad says:

      I just thought it was kind of sad that he says he lives alone, but still feels the need to hide his porn.

      Isn’t that the whole reason why you move out of your parent’s basement in the first place?

      /jk

      • Jules Noctambule says:

        Clearly, he’s hiding his porn from the people breaking into houses to order DirectTV porn! You don’t want some other guy’s hands on your porn, do you?

      • dwtomek says:

        In the event that his hands are liberated for the night by a welcoming lass, does he really need that pile of porn to act as a possible mitigation of the presumed coitus? I think not. Thus the need for preemptive clandestine measures.

      • xredgambit says:

        Well, he may hide it if he entertains friends or coworkers. If I have a bunch of guys over to my house, I don’t want the porn to be out. Now if it was a couple of couples or maybe a group of ladies, then the box is front and center.

  12. Cat says:

    feisty IR waves coming from a remote hitting the clouds at just the right angle.

    I don’t think DirecTV has such a thing, but Dish has a dual tuner receiver, and the 2nd remote is RF, not IR, and it has quite a range on it. My TV was mysteriously changing channels to “McGyver” reruns, mostly when I wasn’t looking. Took me a few days to put 2+2 together.

    Stupid Patty and Selma next door…

  13. consumeristjohnny says:

    I am sure DirectV has heard these stories MILLIONS of times. I know hotels do as well. Everybody is fine with paying the $15 when their erections are raging, but once finished nobody wants to pay. DirectV customers can put blocks on their receivers to not accept porn from anybody but those that have the password. Seems like the thing the OP should do to make sure nobody steals his service. I wonder of he may have DirectV on his phone or computer or maybe gave away a password that allowed viewing from a remote location.

    • tbax929 says:

      Thats fine for the future, but if the OP lives alone, he shouldn’t need to password protect his receiver. I live alone and haven’t even considered a lock on my receivers. Now I will, just in case my dog gets horny.

      • K-Bo says:

        I live alone and I had to lock mine because the people 2 townhouses down got dish, and while I was watching tv one day, the channel started changing and they ended up on a ppv buy page one click from buying on my tv.

  14. Bodger says:

    Simple: open the access door on the front of the satellite receiver box, pull the magic card out, stick it in your wallet. Reverse procedure when you return home. On a similar note, if you were to take the card from your receiver and stick it into another, even hundreds of miles away, and order a PPV it would wind up charged to your account. Hmmm…

    • scoutermac says:

      Problem is if you do this when you return you will have to call Directv to reactivate your box. Luckily they do have this automated. I believe you can also reactivate from the web site too.

  15. feistydonut says:

    I’m not saying I don’t believe you. I’m just saying I want to see your browser history.

  16. SpamFighterLoy says:

    I’ve had to have three PPV movies removed from my DirecTV bill over the course of a decade or so … never had any problems beyond having to insist that no, I didn’t actually order it. Of course, none of them were porn, so there you go.

  17. fraterormus says:

    I get the same thing from parents all the time who bring in their 16 year old son’s computer because of malware causing the computer not to work. Pointing out Warez or Pr0n being the most likely culprit to the parent always results in “My son would never pirate anything, and he isn’t into porn!” After asking if their Internet usage is monitored the parent always replies “I don’t need to, my kid is a good kid.” Yet time after time their browser history and cache shows that the 16 year old has a list of porn fetishes a mile and a half long. Yet the parents remain convinced that their son is only using the Internet for watching Leave it to Beaver reruns on Netflix.

    So, I can understand DirectTV’s response…but I’m honestly surprised that they don’t have it as S.O.P. to gladly offer to drop Adult PPV charges one time under the stipulation that Adult PPV will be blocked to that subscriber’s account from that point forward. I’m willing to bet that if the subscriber realized that they wouldn’t ever be able to access any more Adult PPV they’d change their mind about asking for the charges to be dropped from their statement pdq.

  18. Costner says:

    I worked for a company that installed PPV systems in hotels. The hotel staff would get one of two people each and every day who would try to dispute their charges. A common excuse was that they must have rolled over on to the remote in their sleep.

    The thing was – it took a long sequence of buttons to order something. First they had to access the menu, then they had to select the genre (typically the adult movies were the ones being contested) then they would have to select the movie, scoll down to “Order” and then select “Confirm” on the order screen. In total it was something like eight or nine buttons that would have to be pressed in sequence. When customers learned that, most of the time they dropped it then and there.

    Other time they would claim they didn’t watch the movie or that it was an “accident” to order it, but the computer recorded the time the movie was viewed. So the front desk clerk would tell the guest that they had the TV on for 134minutes and watched the entire film, or in the case of an adult film, they watched it for around 15 minutes and then they changed the channel to CNN before ordering another adult film two hours later which then again watched for 10 minutes before switching to ESPN.

    Never a dull moment.

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      See, here’s the problem — people balk at paying $15 for a 90-minute movie when they only need about 6-10 minutes of it! :D

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        yep, when i worked night auditor at a hotel we’d get people calling down all the time to see if they could get charges removed from their bills because they “started a movie and didn’t like it” so they only watched 2 minutes of it. look, we all know why you only needed 2 minutes of “trans-girls go swimming”

        • Doubting thomas says:

          The hotel I worked at had an antiquated billing system that could not remove charges from a bill. We could put a reversal on the account but he charge would not go away. So the receipt you had to show your accounting department still showed the $15 movie charge on it. If we reversed the charge it just put another line at the bottom that said credit $15. Guys would freak out at the front desk daily. Even better was the guys who had opted for the $40 unlimited adult movie access. You might convince your boss you paid $15 to watch Pulp Fiction but not $40.00.

          Oh and to echo everyone else, Yeah about 45% of adult charges get disputed. The really funny ones are the guys that hang out in the lobby waiting for the girl to leave the desk so they can talk to the guy behind the counter.

  19. IGetsAnOpinion says:

    12 years Dish Network customer and never had to dispute any charge on my account. Of course, now that I live in a town where cable is expensive so there are a lot of dish/direct tv customers, I may need to watch more closely if it’s that easy for a neighbor to order on my box.

  20. Wes_Sabi says:

    I only break into people’s houses to defrost and eat their lobsters.

  21. HotAirConsumer says:

    I had a similar experience with dish network. It wasn’t porn but it was pay per view. At nighttime in the bedroom I noticed the tv would change channel. I figured someone else had the same rf remote code nearby but didn’t expect any problems. The next bill showed a ppv movie I never got so I called. At first they said it was impossible but after complaining more they gave me a ‚Äù one time‚Äù adjustment. They never admitted the issue.

    Had they refused to do that I was planning to turn my receiver off and order a ton of porn and make the other subscriber deal with it. Thankfully I didn’t have to do that.

    I now haves a password for ppv setup it won’t happen again. Also I changed remote code.

  22. gman863 says:

    While I trust the OP’s statement that he honestly thinks nobody entered his house while he was away, I would advise him to dig a bit further.

    * Does anyone (a friend, relative, neighbor, etc.) have both a house key and the alarm code to enter the house in the event of an emergency? It’s possible this person decided to “check up” on the house, hang around and get their rocks off with DirecTV.

    * How were the movies ordered – using the receiver, on-line or by phone? DirecTV should be able to provide the answer. If the receiver is connected to a phone line, the OP can easily set his DirecTV receivers to require a password/PIN number in order to order any PPV if someone (as noted above) drops by when he’s not home. If ordered on-line, does the OP have his DirecTV password stored in his PC for automatic login to the site? After his next out of town trip, he should check the browser history on any and all PCs in the house. If sites were accessed on his away days, it’s proof someone was using them. Browser history only stores for about two weeks, so it’s important to check this promptly upon return.

    * If he has a monitored alarm system, there is a possibility he can call his alarm company and see if they keep records of who turned the alarm off/on on the days he was out of town.

    Bottom line: He needs to be 100% positive nobody is getting in his house. If not, it’s not a big leap in logic to think someone who would steal $30 in PPV movies may graduate to pinching jewelry or other not quickly noticed items on their next unscheduled visit.

  23. tamstress says:

    I have a teenage boy catsitter, DirecTV and a password for PPV and the adult channels. No one wants to come home to PPV charges and a wastebasket of happy tissues.

  24. Crymansqua says:

    “At this point, says Dave, the CSR went silent for a minute before offering to credit his account, not the full $29.98, but six monthly credits of $5 each.”

    So they’re offering him $30? 2 cents more than was charged? Why is that an insult? Sure the “six month” thing sucks but you still get your money back.

  25. Lyn Torden says:

    “I really just wanted them to look into how these charges could end up on my bill, but then they started treating me like some liar with porn-buyer’s remorse.”

    Dave … I know exactly what their problem is. They have computers. And their CSRs are trained to assume the computers are always right. I work in IT and I know they are very frequently wrong.

    Tell them you want to speak to the auditor.

    • LJKelley says:

      This is going to be a huge problem going forward with people believing too strongly in what a computer tells them. But I find this out in the reverse all the time on Netflix, where I’ll watch an episode but Netflix didn’t register it and so next time I came back I need to skip that already watched episode to go to the next one.

  26. TerpBE says:

    Remote controls can work through windows. Just sayin’.

  27. Booboobunnygirl says:

    I did support for a major cable provider and this was the number 1 call we’d get daily. “I didn’t order this porn and neither did anyone in the house” or “my dog stepped on the remote and it just came on.” And our response was always to check and see if it was a habit with the specific account and then to credit for 1 of the movies, show them how to set up parental controls and told them if it happened again we wouldn’t reverse it.

    I remember one time I had a woman call in and ask me to read off every xrated title on the account and in between each one she’d berate her husband for ordering them. It was pretty great.

  28. ConsumerA says:

    I worked on the phone doing customer service for DIRECTV years ago. It was always amazing how many single mothers called in and indicated they didn’t have a husband, so it just wasn’t possible. It was just her and her teenage son who lived there…and they couldn’t figure out who’d ordered the porn. 8-)

  29. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I’d look for ways someone could have gotten in or accessed the account. When I had my first apartment, many years ago, I got socked with a huge phone bill for 900# sex lines. I lived alone, and the calls occurred while I was at work. My employer sent work records to the phone company, and I got the charges reversed. I got the landlord involved, and it turned out there was a phone junction box of some sort in the basement, and someone had just plugged in another phone and used my line. The landlord locked it up, and I never had another problem.my

  30. jayphat says:

    As a side note, Time Warmers CEO says free porn on the internet has cost the company 31% of their profits in the last 5 years. WONT SOMEONE THINK OF THE CORPORATIONS!!??!!

  31. padarjohn says:

    Your only other choice isn’t necessarily Comcast – there’s usually over-the-air. I got my mythTV system working so I have an alternative to DirecTV’s DVR, and should be canceling my account soon. I’m actually looking forward to having fewer choices, which will mean less time wasted watching TV.
    If you don’t want to roll your own, you can always do OTA with a Tivo box….

  32. Ducatisti says:

    I can only imagine how frustrating and sad some of those calls would be. Oh, and funny.

    We set up a password the minute we had the system connected. It’s only the two of us, but it’s always good to add a layer of security when you can.

    I would be curios if what this guy is saying is even remotely possible – could something like this get billed to the wrong account? It seems like a very strange “glitch”.

  33. No Fat Chicks says:

    Window Surfing is when you watch porn or movies from outside your neighbors home by just having a remote. This happens a lot in trailer parks in the south. Since cable company remotes are identical, just click a pay per view movie. It has also been used on neighbors that are assholes.

    Only works until they get the bill and turn off PPV or set up a password.

  34. kc2idf says:

    “If my only other choice for cable wasn’t Comcast, I’d have cancelled my account then and there.”

    Dish?

  35. duncanblackthorne says:

    Cancel their service and stream shows you want to watch online instead, or better yet, read more books. Most of what is on TV these days is utter crap anyway.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Yeah, but most books are total crap as well so what’s you point?

      Do I think 99.9% of what is on tv is crap? Sure I do, that’s why I don’t watch 99.9% of what’s on tv and only watch the 0.1% of things on that I don’t think are crap.

  36. Killfile says:

    I’m afraid Dave just doesn’t know how to deal with Satelite TV Companies.

    I worked at Dish Network for some years as a CSR; my understanding is that the industry has fairly standard practices in the area of PPV charge reversal because, let’s be honest, it’s a fairly common problem.

    Lots of folks order porn and then can’t/won’t fess up to it when the bill comes, either for financial reasons (that stuff is expensive!) or because they’ve got the wife/girlfriend/fiancee/mom/whatever looking over their shoulder.

    Here’s what Dave did wrong.

    1. The first person you talk to on the phone probably isn’t going to be able to credit your account for more than $5. Dish Network limits their Tier 1 CSRs to a $5 credit without managerial approval; I suspect DirecTV does the same. That means that, without getting a supervisor involved (either on the call itself or asking the CSR to talk to their supervisor), you’re never going to get more than $5.

    2. CSRs can’t suggest that you “escalate” the call i.e. talk to their manager. YOU can suggest such a thing but they’re forbidden from doing so. If you suspect that what you’re asking for is beyond the powers of the person you’re talking to it’s up to YOU to escalate the call.

    3. The technology behind these receives is VERY VERY good. It is unlikely in the extreme that the receiver just magicked up a PPV on a whim. If you’re trying to overturn an adult PPV charge odds are that you’re going into the call with a serious credibility problem. You need to establish how the charge got there and come up with a reasonable sounding explanation as to how it got there.

    4. Don’t get agressive and demanding; be patient and ask questions. This helps you figure out how the charge got there and helps convince the CSR that you aren’t just making this call because your wife just found out about your interest in cheerleader car-washes. Was it ordered by phone? There should be notes on the account. Was it ordered on the receiver? Which receiver? What time? How does the remote communicate with the receiver? (Some receivers use a UHF remote which, if improperly configured, can end up controlling your neighbors’ receivers. I’ve seen it happen) Was the receiver recently purchased? Was it purchased used? Is it possible that the PPV authorization was stored on the smart-card by the previous owner and assigned to your account when you activated the receiver? (You’re probably not getting out of that one).

    5. Make an offer and state your terms. The longer this call drags on the more money you’re costing your Satellite provider. Eventually they’ll cave just to get you off the phone. By this time you ought to have enough information to guess how this happened, take steps to prevent it in the future, and let everyone hang up happy. Suggest that the CSR walk you through locking down ALL of your receivers so that PPV requires a code. Set up a passphrase on the account that MUST be used to order PPV by phone and consider (particularly if you don’t use PPV) having the account’s PPV credit limit reduced to zero. Ask that, in light of your willingness to make these changes and ensure that this NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN that the PPV be waived just this once.

    You will probably have to get a manager involved for that last part.

  37. coldfire409 says:

    I used to work for a cable company and we would get people calling in all the time saying that they never ordered adult ppv movies, or that they accidentally ordered them. Now with the accidentally ordering them if they call in within 10 mins of ordering then we can cancel that, or credit the purchase. If they wait until they get the bill then they were sol.

    Also it’s not uncommon for people to call in when they get the bill to say they never ordered the movie, and we have heard every excuse out there as to why they couldn’t have ordered the movie. Now with the company I worked for we just had IR remote controls so neighbors would have been negligible.