BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - If you are a Verizon customer, you may be due a refund. It involves fraud that the telephone giant had little control over. But they settled out of court anyway.
It is a scam known as "cramming." A fraudster using a third party billing company sneaks a charge onto your phone bill. They might claim to be a discount long distance company or a sex chat service, which you never use, but you get billed for it.
Tom Ranallo and Brandon Jonas are going over the stacks of "cramming" refunds they've secured for clients through their firm Troy and Banks, a utility auditing firm.
Jonas said, "When you get on the phone with a cramming company, they will offer you like, a three-month refund, and then I will say, 'When did the account start?' They will say, 'It actually started in 2008.'"
Cramming is the illegal practice of sneaking a charge through a third party onto a consumer's phone bill. In this case, USBI is an established third party. The company in the small print is sneaking on the charge.
Peggy Penders of the Better Business Bureau said, "Cramming has been tracked to some absolutely ridiculous charges that have absolutely nothing to do with your telephone bill."
Verizon customers took the phone giant to task over allowing their bills to be crammed. And in an out-of-court settlement, Verizon has agreed to refund their customers $40 once, or more if the cramming exceeded the $40.
Ranallo said, "If that is the one time settlement you are willing to receive, that is what you are going to get. If you uncover and scrutinize all of your bills for many years, the number could be significantly higher."
The settlement applies to Verizon customers going back to 2005, when we did a story about a Tonawanda firm that was crammed.
Lisa Dio of Kinetic Design said in 2005, "We called Verizon, and they said, 'Oh, don't worry about that, we will get you a credit from Mercury Internet, and just don't pay that bill.'"
Ranallo makes it clear, Verizon customers were gamed by crooks.
"You have unlawful, criminal type behavior where people are just taking advantage of Verizon, the billing system, and the customer," he said.
Verizon tells News 4 that some customers, including business and government units that use Verizon, could be entitled to hundreds or even thousands of dollars in refunds.
To find out how you can get your $40 back or more, follow this link. If it is easier for you to call the settlement administrator, the toll-free number is 1-877-772-6219 - and they will even check your old bills for cramming.
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