Dear Verizon: I Haven't Been An MCI Customer In Four Years

from the customer-service dept

About five or six years ago, I had landline phone service from MCI. In the age before VoIP was common, MCI had a service called "The Neighborhood" which was like many VoIP services today, but without the VoIP part. Unlimited calls for a single flat rate and such advanced (at the time!) features as emailing you your voicemails. It wasn't a bad deal, and I used it for a year or two, until I was getting ready to move. VoIP services had become popular, so I transferred that phone line to a VoIP account and canceled the MCI service in 2004. And that was that. Or so I thought. In 2006, Verizon bought what was left of a scandal-ridden MCI, and as far as I knew, the MCI brand had pretty much gone away.

Yet, in the last couple of weeks, I've received a barrage of robocalls from MCI, letting me know that my credit card is expiring, and I need to log into mci.com to update the card. The call notes that my bill is automatically charged to this credit card and if I want to "continue enjoying this convenience" I need to update soon. The call is correct in that the credit card I used back when I had MCI expired this month, but is it that hard for Verizon (or whoever it is) to recognize that the very phone number they're calling me on hasn't been connected to MCI service in four years and that the company has not, in fact, billed me during that time? And, honestly, why did they hang onto my credit card info for so long? And, finally, why call me three times a day with no way for me to tell them to knock if off? I thought perhaps this was a new form of phishing, but the call directs you to log into mci.com itself, so it sounds like it's legit. Either way, it raises plenty of questions about MCI (and now Verizon's) data handling practices.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Carl, Oct 24th, 2008 @ 6:31pm

    Data and Marketing

    What I see is the all too common disconnect between marketing, IT and intelligence. I'm willing to bet that someone came up with this notion to recapture some business, and dumped this on some data admin far down the food chain who just gave marketing the phone numbers, who had no idea what was going to happen. And the marketing folks gave the data dump to some vendor for the robo-calls.

     

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  2.  
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    Bob, Oct 24th, 2008 @ 6:37pm

    Info nevers dies

    Once your in the computer that info never dies.
    That's just part of the problem.
    But this all goes back to business and it's laws.
    If the law is good for business, it's good.
    If the law is good for People, it's bad.
    If the law is good for both, it's good.
    This also works internationally, as you see we have just turned over the keys to the US Treasury to business.

     

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  3.  
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    Mark Regan, Oct 24th, 2008 @ 6:43pm

    I agree

    I agree with Carl. That is very likely HOW it happened.

    But the bigger question is WHY large companies insist on HARASSING CUSTOMERS BY PHONE WITH SEQUENTIAL DIALERS AND/OR ROBOTIC VOICES in an effort to try to get their business. Surely somebody in their company can understand that these intrusive and offensive tactics will drive even the most loyal customer or prospective customer away.

    The tens of millions of dollars these companies spend on image building is torn asunder by the first robotic call, and their image is completely trampled by subsequent calls.
    And if the party being harassed is also a stockholder, well there goes their confidence in the competence of the leadership of that company.

    Remember when you were in elementary school and being pushed around by the school bully? Later on, when he came around selling candy or raffle tickets, would you buy from him? Certainly not. You'd buy from the girl who was NICE to you, not the idiot who harassed you. Elementary, Mr. Watson.

     

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  4.  
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    jonnyq, Oct 24th, 2008 @ 7:47pm

    And, honestly, why did they hang onto my credit card info for so long?

    I'm fairly certain that's a violation of PCI standards.

     

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  5.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Oct 24th, 2008 @ 8:04pm

    Marketing Insanity

    A bank is running a commercial on how to prevent identity theft. That commercial shows a "thief" stealing a credit card application from the trash. The bank then encourages you to enroll, for a fee of course, in their identity protection program.

    This is insane, the banks and credit card companies could easily prevent this security hole by simply not sending out these solicitations. The fact that they haven't stopped sending them implies that they must be making more money by "allowing" identity theft than in preventing the problem.

    Furthermore, banks and credit card companies are obligated, to a degree, to make sure that transactions are valid. The identity theft protection programs really amounts to the banks and credit cards charging you for a service that they should be providing when you use your check or credit card.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2008 @ 8:20pm

    They may not have actually had your credit card info at all, other than the expiration date. They probably had some alternative system that kept track of when to call you, and that wasn't remove when you cancelled your service.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Cowherd, Oct 24th, 2008 @ 8:53pm

    Phishing

    Maybe it IS a phish. What happened to the mci.com domain name after the merger? Did Verizon hang onto it and make it a redirect, or did it get dumped back on a domain registrar or auctioned off at fire-sale prices?

    If the domain name is no longer Verizon/the former MCI's, then it's quite possible some scammer bought it up, put up a fake MCI page, and started robo-calling to phish for credit-card numbers. As for where they might get MCI customer lists (and, if it's not just a coincidence, their cc expiry date info), dumpster-diving comes to mind. Disgruntled MCI ex-employees might have kept information or access codes. Etc.

    According to WHOIS records, mci.com is held by Verizon, but WHOIS records can be spoofed. Registrars don't necessarily vet all of the WHOIS info -- the registering party's payment info and phone number might be all they check. In this case, the registrar is markmonitor.com -- I don't know how reliable or trustworthy that registrar is, but my not having ever heard of it before isn't very encouraging on that score.

    Most likely, though, Verizon did indeed hold onto the domain, particularly given that the WHOIS records don't indicate otherwise.

     

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  8.  
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    Disgruntled Verizion Ex-User, Oct 25th, 2008 @ 12:09am

    re:7

    MarkMonitor - Home

    MarkMonitor is the global leader in Internet fraud prevention and brand protection.

    (first hit on google)

    They seem to be what they say.. a lure for idiots that cant be bothered to check their FICO Score/Credit reports.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2008 @ 12:17am

    Seriously? This is not news. If you want a blog, start one.

     

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  10.  
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    sean, Oct 25th, 2008 @ 12:40am

    Keeping credit card info

    Hah, had a similar experience running for 3 years! The card issuer didn't want to know, so I changed credit cards...

     

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  11.  
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    Joel, Oct 25th, 2008 @ 12:45am

    Re:

    I am lost at what your expectations are. Do you think this is a news site and not a blog? Moreover, I am increasingly interested in who sent you here with the expectation that this was a news site.

     

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  12.  
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    John, Oct 25th, 2008 @ 1:41am

    Take a note from granny

    Remember the granny who showed up at her cable company with a hammer? I say hammer and their data center and let them have it.

     

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  13.  
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    Telco Tech, Oct 25th, 2008 @ 5:22am

    Dear Verizon

    You didn't mention who your VoIP was through. If it was anyone other than Verizon you have a reason to be upset. If the VoIP is with Verizon it does not surprize me that you are still being contacted. By the way even though Verizon bought MCI. They continue to offer the MCI Neighborhood product, holding on to the name recognition that the product has.
    I am 100% with you on the subject of "robo calling" I hate it. Every evening around dinner time we get "robo calls" eventhough we are on the national do not call list. What a pain.

     

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  14.  
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    steve anderson, Oct 25th, 2008 @ 5:33am

    Verizon does not know how to charge me

    For the last 10 months I have tried to get Verizon to auto delete(EFT) payment from my Checking account or Credit Card ( as suggested by Verizon when They could not EFT funds from my checking account). I have been dunned for NO payment when the incompetent dodo birds at Verizon can not enter a given # correctly. They apparently throw away zero's which are needed by the bank.
    They also cannot charge my VISA card either, But when I force a payment, they then can accept a payment from ny bank (EFT) or my VISA credit card.
    It takes 20 minutes or more on the phone until you get a "knowledgeable?" person who understands(/) the problem, but the idiots cannot/will not/and do not correct the problem that Verizon has!!!!!

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2008 @ 9:53am

    Idiots, Verizon has always hated the customer.

     

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  16.  
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    Justin, Oct 25th, 2008 @ 10:46am

    They could truly just be idiots.

    After we elected not to renew (this was not an early termination or anything; we just did not renew) our Sprint mobile service contract several years back, we continued receiving paper bills from them in the amount of $0.00. We ignored them, thinking it funny that we kept getting them... that is, until we noticed the late payment fees piling up on the subsequent statements. We called them up and, admittedly quite fortunately, only had to spend four hours of being transfered and refusing payment in order for the account to be cleared and purged.

    So in addition to all the other possible scenarios, one must pay heed to Ockham's Razor and wonder, is it just that they're idiots? =)

     

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  17.  
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    dookey, Oct 25th, 2008 @ 11:17am

    Hmmm...

     

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  18.  
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    Dosquatch, Oct 25th, 2008 @ 11:20am

    Re:

    This is not news. If you want a blog, start one.

    He did. This is it - Techdirt is Mark's blog**. It is fairly successful, and tends to talk about "real things" instead of "update on my cat" nonsense, but it is nonetheless a blog. His blog. To post on as he sees fit.

    And this, to me, seems appropriate. It's "this happened to me", but the implications are still of larger technology and privacy issues, which Techdirt has certainly established as within it's scope of interest.

    ** - though it has had other contributors over the years. I don't see posts from Carlos et. al. post anymore... are they still with you, Mike?

     

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  19.  
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    Howard_NYC, Oct 25th, 2008 @ 1:34pm

    Q: anyone know home phone #s of Verizon executives...?

    Q: anyone know home phone #s of Verizon executives...?

    if it is good for us, it is good enough for them...

    ...post them here, and we can try selling them on signing up with some other VOIP provide

    ...knuckleheads over in marketing will then get a wake up call

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2008 @ 4:02pm

    Even before Verizon bought it MCI was a hodgepodge of mergers and acquisitions. MCI had these types of billing problems for years. Too many disconnected systems and no one responsible for any of them.

     

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  21.  
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    Peet McKimmie (profile), Oct 25th, 2008 @ 6:03pm

    Apropos to nothing...

    There was an online service I used once (literally) back around 2002. In 2003 they started sending me "Final notice - if you do nothing your account WILL EXPIRE in the next TWO WEEKS" emails.

    Just out of inertia I did nothing. Guess what? It took over two and a half years for them to finally give up. Every week I got a notification that my account WOULD EXPIRE in TWO WEEKS.

    Nothing ever expires; eventually they just misplace your data.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2008 @ 7:56pm

    Re:

    I had this problem with a credit card company. I accidentally overpaid the account and then had to charge down the balance (they claimed they didn't know how to issue a refund) and their zero balance detector did not take into account that there was also a minus 0.00 in the computer they used. They didn't know how to fix my account that had been in arrears for 6 months because I hadn't paid the $0.00, so finally I wrote them a check for $0.00 which my bank "cashed" and the problem went away.

     

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  23.  
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    greg, Oct 25th, 2008 @ 10:31pm

    ok, get this one

    ok,
    so get this one.
    I had a bank account.
    -I had moved, and my statement had been going to my new address for years.
    -then that bank was bought by another bank.
    -New checks were sent to my old address. (which someone wrote checks on, by the way)
    -So I go to my bank, asking why did they send the checks to my old address. when my statements for years, were going to my new address.
    -They said, they have 2 addresses in the system. one for statements and one for checks!
    -oh, by the way. the cops would not go to my old address to find the check writer. because there was no proof!

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2008 @ 1:45am

    Did you ever hear the saying-- A fool and his money are soon parted --?

     

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  25.  
    icon
    Peet McKimmie (profile), Oct 26th, 2008 @ 3:19am

    Re:

    "A fool and his money ... are a joy to behold!"

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Tony, Oct 27th, 2008 @ 10:10am

    Re: I agree

    Why? Pretty simple - because they have the clear perception, whether it's true or not - that it works. I had this exact discussion with a business owner I knew many years ago, after I received an automated telemarketing call from his company. His defense? "It works. It's the least expensive way for me to get new customers." Even knowing that it annoyed the hell out of me (enough to not use his service), he considered it worth that cost for the new business that it brought in.

     

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  27.  
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    Vic, Oct 27th, 2008 @ 11:56am

    That's a smart computer book keeping for you.

    Reminds me my story: for several months in a row, close to a whole year I was receiving in regular mail bill from a credit card that I have closed long time ago. Every time the bill came with a return envelope in which you're supposed to submit your payment. Every month same story again and again. Every bill showed the same amount every time, no late fees no any other fees.

    The punchline? The amount in a bill every time showed credit that the card actually owned me. Why would they remind me about it and include a return envelope? Beats me...

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Mischa, Oct 28th, 2008 @ 10:39am

    no comunication

    I've had this problem before. In most companies, the people who handle automatic payments have their own separate department and as far as the rest of the company is concerned they speak another language that nobody knows how to translate. No one in the customer service department can make any changes to automatic payment details and no one in the automatic payment department answers phone calls. If you are lucky there might be a web page where you can make changes. Otherwise you have to fill out a form, mail it in, and wait 6-8 weeks for the change to be made.

     

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