Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Carmel on the Case: Bogus Billing
How many times do you really read your entire phone bill? For most of us, the bills keep getting longer and spare time keeps getting shorter. But in tonight's Carmel on the Case, Carmel Cafiero found many of us are being charged for a service we don't need and don't want.
WSVN -- Susan Ellis is the executive director of the Redbone.
It's a Florida Keys charity that runs fishing tournaments to raise money for research into cystic fibrosis.
Susan's daughter Nicole suffers from the disease.
Her entire family is involved in the fundraising -- from her grandmother to her father.
The Redbone even operates an art gallery to boost income.
But recently Susan discovered she had been giving money away.
Susan Ellis: "Last year was kind of a hectic year for us and I have to say I wasn't paying attention."
When she did take a close look at the phone bill - she saw this - a charge from a business called Galacy for $29.95.
It's a company she didn't recognize so she called.
Susan Ellis: "And I spoke to a gentleman that just took me back. He was extremely rude, extremely defensive and I asked him what was this charge for and he told me it was for our web site."
But the man told Susan it was for a web site called www.redbone.com.
A site Susan couldn't find and doesn't need -- because her web site is www. redbone.org not www.redbone.com.
Susan Ellis: "I went back through my records and found out they've been charging me this since February 2004 which added up to over $400 dollars."
After we started asking questions - Galacy provided us a recording of someone else at the Redbone office apparently authorizing a 15 day free trial.
But there was a catch.
Galacy Salesperson: "Only after 15 days it would be $29.95 a month conveniently billed to your local telephone bill."
No matter who authorized it - Susan says she is the only one who could properly approve such a deal.
Brodie White: "Galacy has failed to provide basic information to the Better Business Bureau. They do have complaints on file."
Brodie White is president of the South Florida Better Business Bureau.
He says not only are there hundreds of complaints against Galacy, he says there are hundreds of complaints against Galacy's billing company.
Brodie White: "Many times we see companies that will get an authorization perhaps not even from the proper individual."
But there's not much bell south can do. In a written statement, a company spokeswoman told us, Bell South acts as a billing agent for long distance phone companies and internet service providers.
Bell South deals with companies that are certified by the Florida Public Service Commission.
Susan Ellis: "I just feel terrible because as a steward for this charity as the executive director, I failed to really do due diligence on this and it cost the charity over $400 dollars."
But there is a happy ending here for the Redbone. After 7 News started making inquiries, Bell South issued a full refund. But the key here is read your phone bill no matter how many pages because the sooner you spot a bogus charge - the better.
If there's something you think we should investigate give me a call or send an e-mail. Who knows it might be our next case.
For more information, or if you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or In Broward at 954-921-CLUE