AT&T - A Good Example of Corporate Theft

When I was younger I believed it was beneath an American iconic corporation that was first named after Alexander Bell to illegally profit from me through the porn industry (or a telemarketing scam). But now that I'm older and wiser, I know better.
By: Bud Meyers
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Las Vegas - N V - US

Oct. 17, 2010 - PRLog -- Another day, another sleazy corporate scam.

I once had MCI as my long-distance carrier on my landline phone, but I was later *slammed into using AT&T's.

* The illegal practice of switching a consumer's traditional landline telephone company for another long distance service without permission.

When I bought my first computer in 1999, I used Windows 98 with a dial-up modem. I was new to the internet and I didn't know very much about anti-virus or firewalls. One website that I had inadvertently visited had downloaded some *malware to my computer. In turn, without me knowing, this stealthy software had called a long-distance number through my computer's modem.

* Short for malicious software, designed to secretly access a computer system without the owner's informed consent.

Unbeknownst to me, it had connected my computer to some kind of *porn site operating out of a small country in Africa, and it had charged me $400 on my next telephone bill. AT&T had even explicitly and indiscreetly spelled out the full name of this derogatory website on my telephone bill. Had I been married, it could have been a very sensitive and embarrassing problem for me as well.  

* I never did see any supposed "porn site" in my computer's browser, or see any "nasty" pictures.  Most likely adult content was never actually offered, but these "shell companies" who operate overseas (and sometimes on ships offshore) probably bill themselves as a porn site to AT&T, who then passes the phone charges on to their customers...working in collusion like co-conspirators.

I was fuming and called AT&T to complain. I told them that I would REFUSE to pay one penny of the charge. Then I filed an online complaint with the FCC. I immediately cancelled my long-distance service with AT&T and went with another carrier.

I've seen little written on the subject, and I've always wondered why this was. Could it be because these naive people who were swindled were deliberately shamed by AT&T by knowingly permitting these connections to be made to porn sites? Was AT&T calculating the number of married men who would pay the bill and say nothing to avoid a conflict with their wife, and just credit the accounts for those who complained like myself? Huge profits could be made even if this were done on a smaller scale.  

Why didn't AT&T refer me to a collection agency when I refused to pay the bill? When was the last time you saw a huge corporation be so "forgiving" with ANY charges? After all, if what AT&T was doing was legal, why did AT&T drop all the charges for me instead of subpoenaing me to court to garnish my wages? They didn't even argue or question my complaint. They knew VERY well what my outrage had been about all along.

I'm quite sure mine wasn't the first complaint that AT&T and the FCC received.

It's shameful that AT&T would charge these suckers $20 a minute when they knew full well that an actual long-distance call didn't cost that much, and that it was a sham. Those computer-generated calls aren't the same as when someone calls a 900 number - - - when a real human being actually picks up the phone and dials a number if they wish to have LIVE phone sex with an anonymous woman.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that AT&T claimed they had no knowledge of such practices, and only blindly accepted payments into their corporate treasury from these "questionable" businesses - such as those that operate from off-shore island nations that have little telecommunication or banking regulations.

My daddy once told me: "Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law". If you break the law, you go to jail...whether you knew what you did was legal or not. Sometimes, just being able to differentiate "right" from "wrong" can usually be a good clue as to its legality. In business, this what is known as "corporate governance". But many American companies like AT&T don't adhere to this moral principal.

I would find AT&T's excuse "we didn't know" to be very difficult to defend, and even more unfathomable to believe. Not when AT&T has all those high-priced lawyers in their legal department. Ordinary citizens don't have a "legal department", and most can't even afford to hire a run-of-the-mill lawyer to help represent them when they are wronged - unless of course, there is a HUGE 33% commission waiting at the end.

Can you really believe that AT&T had no knowledge of such despicable activities? Can you also believe that CNN would run advertisements for the KKK or the Aryan Nation - and just blindly accept the revenue without researching the sponsor just a little? I don't think so!

At that time, besides just having a landline phone, I also had a cell phone - using Verizon Wireless as my service provider. But one time, after having just visited my father who lived out-of-state, I was charged $300 in roaming fees on my next month's bill. I called to complain but they didn't do a thing for me as far as adjusting the amount on my bill. So I just paid it, but as soon as my service contract expired, I immediately changed from Verizon to Cingular.

But about 3 or 4 years later, Cingular was bought out by AT&T.

I thought that AT&T had been morally and ethnically wrong. First, the way they first slammed me for the service, and then tried to profit from an explicit (and probably illegal) porn scam that operated in a foreign country. I tried to boycott AT&T for such despicable behavior...but several years later, and not by choice, I find myself stuck with AT&T again.

It's odd, because it seems that at one time another, all these companies were a part of, a subsidiary to, a partner with, or owned by each other at one time or another in their corporate history. It's almost like trying to trace one's ancestry through DNA.

These days you can't punish a bad business by taking your business to their competition, because their competitors just wind up being eventually bought out by the other company anyway. Monopolies were meant to keep one company from cornering the market on any good or service and fixing prices. Eliminating monopolies was supposed to promote fair competition, giving consumers better choices and better prices.

In 1984 "Ma Bell" was broken up by the government into smaller "baby bells", but it didn't keep the communication giant from engaging in "mergers" or acquiring other assets. While AT&T was no longer a "monopoly" (because of satellites and other advances in technologies in the cell phone and cable industry), AT&T still became a dominant force in telecommunications. Not long after the original AT&T had broken up, the days of pay-phones and landline lines were quickly becoming obsolete. In the 1990's, more and more people were turning to cell phones - and *AT&T pounced at the opportunity to once again regain its dominance in the telecommunications market.

*As an aside: The original AT&T (American Telephone & Telegraph) evolved from the Bell Telephone Company. The company that is called AT&T today is not the same company that it originally was - but is actually a corporate successor to one of the "Baby Bells".

AT&T is now the 7th largest company in the United States by revenue. And Forbes listed AT&T as the 13th largest company in the world, as well as the world's largest provider of telecommunications.

So in the end, nothing had stopped AT&T from getting my money. And that's what it was all about in the first place, wasn't it? Getting my money...and doing it any way they could.

And that my friends, is how the rich get richer while the poor get poorer...because of corporate greed, corruption, malfeasance, mal-governance, and with the use of bribery to influence regulatory law. The big CEOs, those who call the shots, approve these ways of doing business. They are worse than common scumbags...because they hurt a vast number of people on a much grander scale.

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