How often do you carefully scrutinize your cell phone bill? Cell phone text messaging scammers are hoping you don’t do it often. Recently I noticed an unusual charge for $9.99 on my wife’s iPhone line we have with AT&T.

Unsolicited Recurring Phone Bill Purchase Subscription

I called AT&T and after discussing this, they added a feature to our phone package called “Purchase Manager.” Sometimes this feature is called “Purchase Blocker,” in either event it’s FREE to add. I think it should be a default account feature. Classactionconnect.com has instructions about adding it via AT&T’s Wireless customer website. We’re not sure how this recurring $10 monthly charge was added to her bill, but it could have been an online recipe site which my wife visited or something else. Buried in the “terms of use” could have been verbiage saying “by clicking download” (or “agree”) you agree to pay $9.99 this month and every successive month for a confusing “Mobile Purchase” which will be buried on your phone bill and will be extremely difficult to find or decipher. One of the lessons learned here is: Don’t give out your cell phone number on ANY website. You never know what the website owner might choose to do with your information.

By adding “Purchase Manager” or “Purchase Blocker” to our AT&T wireless account, no third party entity will be able to add a purchase or subscription to our phone bill unless we, as cellular customers, log into our account and provide a four digit PIN to authorize that billing addition. This is similar to the feature some cable TV or satellite TV customers can add to “pay per view” programs, requiring a PIN to be entered so children don’t accidentally or intentionally make program purchases with the family’s remote control.

If you’re not with AT&T in the United States for your cellular service, check with your provider and see what they call this “feature.” This seems like something everyone should have by default on cell phone accounts.

Today the AT&T representative was very helpful and in addition to adding this free “Purchase Blocker” service, also entered refunds for the $9.99 charged to our account in January and in February by this scammer. A web search resulted in several pages (here and here) where other people reported this same scamming problem with “BULLROARE.” Hopefully you haven’t run into this in the past. In any event, try and add a free “Purchase Blocker” feature to your mobile account to hopefully prevent situations like this from cropping up in the future.

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5 Responses to Avoid Cellphone Text Messaging Scams with free Purchase Blocker Feature

  1. Fryers says:

    Happened to us a few months ago.  ATT was very nice about refunding the money, & added “parental control” to our account so it can’t happen again.

  2. […] by Wesley Fryer, Moving a the Speed of Creativity […]

  3. jpmarr says:

    Nice article. There is a big caviate with this, however. If you have a smartphone (iPhone) you cannot enable this option or you will be unable to purchase any items on your smartphone. You can still sync from your computer, but with iCloud things can become complicated.

  4. Just wanted to make sure that I corrected the comment from jpmarr regarding iPhones.  You are able the to use the Purchase Blocker  because 1)AT&T provides you with a pin number that you can use and 2)Items purchased through the App store are not blocked.
    Unfortunately I found out about this and several other scams after incurring 6 months of charges over our families 5 cell phones.  While AT&T refunded the last 60 days of charges, they would not refund all the charges.  They did provide me an additional $25 credit however for the hassel.I agree with you Wesley that this should be an automatic feature that you have to disable.  These scams trick you by automatically signing you up if you fail to reply ‘STOP’ to their texts.

    I’m considering starting a petition to get AT&T to make a change to this policy.

  5. No caviate- this doesn’t block iPhone App Store purchases only third party purchases that are billed to your AT&T account.  Additionally, AT&T provides a code you can use to authorize purchases with the block enabled.  

    I agree with you Wesley- this feature should one that you have to disable.  I discovered this problem much later than I wish I had… from July to February of this year about six different companies charged supposed ‘authorized’ services to all but one of our families cell phones.  While AT&T refunded 60 days worth, their policy does not go beyond 60 days.  While I should have caught these charges, our monthly bill is upwards of 15 pages!  
    The representation I spoke with did give me an additional $25 credit however it feels a bit shallow since these charges were not authorized.

    I’m thinking of starting a petition on Change.org that demanding that AT&T change this to an automatic feature.  

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