Virgin Mobile Canada, and "Cramming"

"Cramming" is the practice of putting fraudulent charges on a phone bill. Wikipedia discusses it under phone fraud, and the US Federal Communications Commission gives advice about detecting it and dealing with it.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a text message on my Virgin Mobile cell phone that looked like an attempt at cramming. I do not know how they got my number; I suspect it was by guessing, or by unauthorized access to records at Virgin Mobile. It offered me some useless text messages at a charge of $1.25 per day.

I called Virgin Mobile customer service, and was told that I needed to text "Stop" back to the crammer, or I would be charged. I told them that I had not signed up, and asked them not to honour the charges.

Here's where things start to get really bad. Virgin told me that they had no way to stop the charges. I told them that any such charges would be fraudulent; they said they would still honour them. Some online research showed that Virgin Mobile USA would offer to block third party charges, but Virgin Mobile Canada will not.

I complained, and asked to speak to a supervisor; I was promised a callback within a day or two, but it never came. Finally today I called again and spoke to someone who assured me that I would not be charged by the crammer unless I confirmed receipt of the text message, or signed up online. Except, Virgin Mobile will not participate in the confirmation, they will trust the crammer to report my confirmation to them.

This is a prepaid phone. I don't get a paper bill, or a list of charges to my account. If a crammer starts charging my account, I won't know about it except by seeing my balance evaporate away. I pointed this out to the supervisor at Virgin Mobile, who told me that they keep a record of all usage for three months, and I can occasionally request a listing from them.

So here's my advice to anyone who is reading this:

Duncan Murdoch

Last modified 12 February 2009


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