5/11/09
9:25 am

MacMost Now 239: Prevent Fraudulent iPhone Charges

Mobile phone users must be vigilant and check for fraud on their monthly bills. iPhone users may find recurring charges for services they never asked for and possibly can't even use on an iPhone. Here's how to check for and deal with them.

Video Transcript (Click to Expand)
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. Today's episode: let's learn how to how to prevent unwanted, fraudulent, iPhone charges.
When I checked my AT&T bill last week, I noticed a $15.00 charge for something I never even asked for. This is common, and happens to thousands of people every month. What happens is, a third party company will go ahead and submit to AT&T that you signed up for a service, and that AT&T needs to start billing you on their behalf, and then paying them the money.
Now, this usually happens one of two ways. First way is you sign up for something, maybe it's somebody who's advertised for free, and you don't realize in the fine print that you've also signed up for a monthly service charge. Other times, this happens when you don't even do anything; your number's just picked at random, and submitted to AT&T, or your phone company, to just add you to their monthly billing for a service you never wanted. For instance, one time, I ended up getting a charge for a landline for voicemail, and the funny thing was that the landline was a DSL line, and it didn't even have voice attached to it. And in this case with AT&T, I ended up signing up for a ringtone and game service that doesn't even provide ringtones and games for the iPhone; it's only for other types of phones that it works on.
So, the first thing you need to do is check your AT&T bill carefully. Look in the Mobile Purchases and Downloads section. Now, for the typical iPhone user, nothing should appear here, usually, because app purchases made at the iTunes store are made directly with Apple, and won't be in your AT&T bill. But if something appears here, check it out carefully to see whether it's something you really ordered; chances are, probably not.
Then go ahead and do a Google search for the name of the company or service that appears in your bill. Usually, you'll find lots of other people complaining about similar fraudulent charges. Now keep in mind that the name that you see in your bill may have nothing to do with the actual name of the company. For instance, there's a lot of different scams out there that use the word google in the name of the company or service, but they don't have anything to do with Google at all. They're just kind of using that name, in violation of trademark, to go and attract your attention, and maybe create some level of trust.
Then go ahead and dial 611 on your iPhone. This will connect you to AT&T Customer Service, and you then tell them that you've got a fraudulent charge on your bill for something you never ordered. Then talk to the person about it, and ask them to refund your money. Usually they do this automatically; AT&T seems to be pretty good about this kind of thing.
Then before you get off the phone with them, ask them about a purchase blocker. This will put a block on your phone number, to make sure that any service that's added like this will have to have a confirmation, usually through text messaging with you on your phone. So you can't simply have something like this added without you knowing about it.
Then after that, just be very careful about who you give your AT&T phone number to. Make sure that you don't text it to anybody, or in a response to any kind of free service, or anything like that, without thorough investigation, and a thorough trusting of the party that you're sending your number to.
Now, this isn't unique at all to the iPhone. Everybody who has a cell phone has to be vigilant and check their bill, and make sure they're not getting charged for something that they didn't ask for. 'Till next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.