According to a recently released study, there are more than 5 billion cell phones in use around the world today, with 20% of those just coming into use in the last 18 months. More and more, people are either ditching their traditional land lines or relegating it to a secondary role, especially in large metropolitan areas.
Mike’s mom is one of the fifteen people in the U.S. who doesn’t have a cell phone, so she called him collect from a pay phone in California. Mike and his mom didn’t know it at the time, but they fell into the sarlacc pit that is Custom TeleConnect, a creature that hides in payphones and charges $20 fees for less than half a minute of talking.
My Linh’s Vonage modem stopped working, so she called to request a replacement under the terms of her service agreement. Vonage was happy to oblige. So happy, in fact, that they sent her 14 modems instead of one via UPS—but then couldn’t figure out how to get UPS to come pick them up again. Hey, they do VOIP, not logistics.
Earlier this week we posted a warning to watch out for calls from people asking for donations on behalf of local police or fire departments. Today an alleged former employee—who says he quit after two days of training and one day of seeing what it was really like on the call center floor—wrote in to tell us a little more about how a company on the other side of that phone call works.
The website Consumer Affairs (which is not related to us or our owners in any way) is warning people in Oregon to watch out for calls from people asking for donations on behalf of local police or fire departments. It’s a good reminder to everyone that telephone solicitations should be ignored: “At best, the solicitor will probably take the lion’s share of your donation. At worst, the caller is an outright fraud,” the site reports.
The person who blogs at MichiganTelephone just tried to help his friend sign up for DSL from AT&T last week. Their experience was so full of fail that now his friend doesn’t even want to bother trying anymore. Yes, a customer came to AT&T ready to sign up, and AT&T drove him away. Michigan telephone wonders, “Does AT&T have a death wish, or are they really just that incompetent?”
Are Disconnected Landlines Just As Useful In Emergencies As Connected Ones? Responding to comments on our post and on CRO, Consumer Reports posts a follow-up on the debate over the value of landlines in emergencies. [Consumer Reports Electronics]
This is like one of those ghost stories where the hero joins up with a fellow traveler, and then at the end of his journey discovers that his travel companion never existed. Oooooo! Only it’s about AT&T, so instead of being spooky it’s just annoying. Especially the part at the end where he receives a bill.
Idolina was targeted this morning by a U.S. National Bank scammer. As he was prattling on with his heavily-accented seesaw of threats and incentives, she Googled the bank. (And no, we’re not anti-anyone, but there’s something funny about a supposed U.S. National Bank and/or government representative who sounds like he’s currently calling you from a foreign country.) The third search result was our interview last October with Laurie Lucas, who faced a similar scam. Idolina writes, “I was reading it while I was on the phone with him.”
Last week we reported that some types of unwanted robocall telemarketing will soon be banned. If you’re on the receiving end of Leverage Connections’ prerecorded harassment—they frequently operate under the generic names “Consumer Services” or “Credit Card Services”—you’ll finally have a way to formally complain to the FTC about them. Why would you want to complain? Because they’re the scammiest, most obnoxious robocall telemarketing company we’ve seen so far—even though what they do is apparently legal.
An alleged insider for AT&T sent us the following tip on how to avoid a connection fee if you plan on getting both a regular phone line and DSL through AT&T. We don’t know if it works, but you may be able to avoid a $40 charge for what amounts to “flipping a switch” at AT&T HQ.
Would you buy DSL service from a company that either doesn’t care about Do Not Call lists or doesn’t know how they work? A man in Missouri was harassed to the point where he considered calling the police, because no matter what he did, AT&T wouldn’t stop calling. Every time he tried contacting AT&T to get it to stop, he ended up in automated phone systems with recorded messages, busy signals, and disconnections—but never a live person. Only after he wrote to a local consumer advocacy columnist did AT&T pay attention and turn off the telemarketing fire hose. AT&T didn’t, however, explain why they were targeting this person, or whether anyone else is facing the same barrage of calls.
But in this first real slowdown of the wireless age, consumers seem to be saying that home-based telephones are expendable luxuries, like Starbucks lattes or Coach handbags. And it makes sense. Confronted with high inflation, soaring energy costs, and stagnant wages, millions of households are facing choices about which monthly bills to pay and which commitments to maintain. And if it comes down to one or the other, the mobile or the home-based land line, it’s clear which is a necessity and which is an option.
Movearoo.com is a new website that appears to offer free assistance with your move, helping you set up things like phone service, gas, and electricity at your new address. The site calls itself “Your Total Moving Resource.” It’s a helpful site, sure, but you should be aware that it’s funded by AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest, and exists primarily to promote their services. In other words, you won’t find a comprehensive list of competing phone service providers through Movearoo, only those offered by the three sponsor companies. A consumer advocate points out the drawback of making Movearoo your sole relocation resource:
We found this photo on Flickr and were comforted to know that other people had not only thought of decorating their house for Verizon day, but had actually gone ahead with the plan.
Remember the telephone excise tax? For 40 million taxpayers, the answer is “no.” From Kiplingers:
Although nearly everyone who had a phone at any time between March 1, 2003, and July 31, 2006, deserved the credit, the IRS says that 30% of taxpayers failed to claim it. That means 40 million taxpayers missed the boat … and a chance to boost their refund (or cut their tax due) by $30, $40, $50 or $60.
You can still pry your money from the government by spending fifteen minutes with Form 1040X. X as in, remember the X-cise tax. Kiplinger’s has a step-by-step guide to claim the credit that is rightfully yours. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER