Chuck and Frances Bishop learned over decades in business that paying attention to the details makes all the difference.
So when a recent Telus bill arrived at Bishop & Bishop Advertising and Public Relations with a line item noting a $45 charge for a long-distance call, Frances took immediate notice.
“It was long-distance calls to people we never heard of,” said partner and spouse Chuck.
Frances said it only took entering the first few digits of the telephone number into an Internet search engine to discover their business was not alone — there were scores of complaints from consumers relating to the number. In some cases, communications providers would not reverse the charges.
The Bishops started with Telus, which agreed to remove the $44.95 charge. But the Telus representative warned the corporation may not do the same again if the third-party firm, informationtelcharge.com, levied a similar or larger amount next month.
Following a fruitless search for answers on the Internet, Frances made a flurry of calls in a bid to ensure it didn’t happen to her or another unsuspecting customer in future.
She started with MP Cathy McLeod’s office, which couldn’t provide any help or information.
Next up was the CRTC.
“They said they recognized it but couldn’t help us. Third-party billing people aren’t regulated by CRTC.”
The CRTC representative then recommended a telephone security firm, which led nowhere.
Finally, she was given a recommendation to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. That government agency told her to go back to Telus and install a firewall on the office communications system, technology that Chuck said is unrelated to the apparent phone scam.
Officials with Telus contacted by The Daily News said the company is duty-bound to pass on charges from third-party providers — a payphone bill, for example. In this case, however, spokesman Chris Gerritsen said the telecommunications firm has reversed charges from informationtelcharge.com and blocked the company from accessing its system.
But stopping this or similar bogus charges in future is not straightforward. Gerritsen had no specific information on informationtelcharge.com.
Calls by The Daily News to a 1-888 number revealed the operator as Voxtel, based in Montreal. It operates web and telephone dating as well as third-party services. Several calls to customer service by a reporter eventually resulted in the line going dead, preceded by an automated and curt, “goodbye.”
Gerritsen said the easiest way for customers to protect themselves starts with “always look at your bill each month.
“If you see something out of the ordinary or something doesn’t seem right, we’re more than happy to hear from you.”
Many phone scams are mobile-based and involve unwanted texting services. Gerritsen said users should make sure they want the service. They should also be assured through a “double opt-in,” whereby users have to type “yes” and then confirm through an “accept” button.