I put £20 on my pay-as-you-go Virgin mobile account. When I checked the balance a couple of weeks later I found I only had £1.28 credit, which was a big surprise as I don’t use it very much. I then noticed a text message informing me I could unsubscribe to a firm I had never heard of, and another saying that I didn’t have enough funds for the service to continue.
I contacted Virgin and got through to a customer service person. She informed me I would have to text STOP to the number given to unsubscribe. When I pointed out that I had never subscribed she said it wasn’t their problem but between me and the company that had been taking my money. She claimed I must have answered a text to give them the authority to raid my account and there was nothing I could do except unsubscribe.
I’m 78 and can’t be bothered to learn how to text. While I can unsubscribe, it still means I have lost about £20 to people who had no right to take my money. I suspect this is happening to a lot of people, so something needs to be done to make it harder for this con to take place. PR, Uxbridge, Greater London
We are getting so many letters about this problem and they all seem to follow a pattern. The phone owner is convinced they didn’t sign up to the paid-for service but is still getting weekly premium-rate texts that cost £1.50 a go. This week one of the Guardian’s tech writers found a mobile he uses only to access the internet had been signed up for a similar service – even though there is no way he would have done so.
The website of the so-called regulator of this area, PhonepayPlus, offers a service that allows users to check the name of the company that has sent them the text. In this case it turned out to be a firm called Attic London. We contacted the company and it said yours was the first such complaint it had received. Someone from the company later phoned you and has now offered to send you a £43 refund.
For others in a similar boat, there is lots of information on how to complain on the PhonepayPlus website. However, we have a much better idea. Call your network provider and ask it to bar all premium rate calls and texts from your phone. Do it for your phone, your kids’ phones and for those of any elderly relatives. Do it today.
We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Consumer Champions, Money, the Guardian, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Please include a daytime phone number