These are the heading of emails or phone calls we get on an almost daily basis from users of one of the Betamax group of companies VoIP providers.
If you use VoIP to make phone calls you have probably come across at least one of them. Just in case you are not aware, the Betamax group is made up of at least the following websites:
- www.voipbuster.com, www.sipdiscount.com, www.voipcheap.com, www.voipcheap.co.uk, www.netappel.fr, www.sparvoip.de, www.voipstunt.com, www.internetcalls.com, www.voipdiscount.com, www.poivy.com, www.webcalldirect.com, www.freecall.com, www.nonoh.net, www.voipraider.com, www.justvoip.com, www.voipwise.com, www.budgetsip.com, www.smslisto.com, www.12voip.com, www.lowratevoip.com, www.smsdiscount.com, www.voicetrading.com, www.voipbusterpro.com -
Provided you have a decent high speed internet connection, the call quality generally tends to be good and the prices are almost unbeatable. They could be a genuine Skype alternative, but Betamax seriously lacks a customer orientated approach. Their response to individual complaints is just non existant and the contact numbers and contact forms are nothing better than place holders on their websites.
Whilst in the past we brushed these issues off as startup problems, 2 years down the line we now see a serious escalation of users complaing on VoIP, DSL and consumer related forums around the world.
The problems users are experiencing can be grouped into three main categories:
1. Credit Card Fraud
Over the past 18 - 24 months we have had dozens, if not hundreds of complaints about the Betamax group, all from users and even non-users trying to find an outlet to vent their anger or trying to find a means of contacting the company in Germany.
In all cases the modus operandi is the same: Users who have never used the VoIP services of any of the Betamax VoIP websites find that small amounts averaging between between US$10 and US$35 are charged to their credit cards. In every single instance the credit card charge description was - BETAMAX VOIP CREDIT COLOGNE - (Cologne is the English name of Köln - the apparent headquarters of the group in Germany) and Betamax are the beneficiaries of these fraudulent charges.
As mentioned previously, in the past we were the opinion that it would be highly unlikely for a German based company operating on a worldwide scale would be part of this scam. Due to the increased volume of complaints received in 2007 we are now uncertain about the Betamax group involvement. Normally the credit cards are only hit once, but in some cases uses have been hit 3 to 5 times before they realize their credit cards have been compromized.
Their philosophy is very simple and seems to be working. Nobody would really bother to sue the company in Germany for these small amounts and as long as the credit card companies play along and do not ban Betamax why should Betamax stop with these unethical practices. Around 80% of all users who have complained to us are either from the US or Canada and a few other European countries. Not a single user user from Germany has ever approached us.
Recently we have also noticed that PayPal accounts are also being targeted, but hopefully PayPal will soon put an end to this.
At one stage early 2007 Betamax allowed users to contact them at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. A few users actually managed to get their funds credited, but it now appears that this is no longer the case. Forget ever trying to phone them in Cologne at the phone number listed on their website www.betamax.com/impressum.php?language= , let alone expect to receive a response via their contact form .
If you are a victim of these fraudulent charges immediatly cancel your credit card and dispute the charges with your card provider or bank. Even better list your complaint either here in our comments and/or on www.ripoffreport.com. It is a hassle for this small amount, but if all users were to list their complaints in writing maybe a brave user with time and a few Euros to spare for a German Lawyer would be able to sort this scam out.
Some of our visitors sent us copies of emails they sent to Betamax:
"I have two transactions on my VISA card that I did not purchase.They are listed as being made to "Betamax VOIP Credit"One was on Sept. 19 for 50.50 or $104.26 Canadian dollars.The other was on Sept. 24 for 10.50 or $15.26 Canadian Dollars.Can you check to see who made these transactions and what they were for? I have made no purchases from BetaMax VOIP - can you explain please.Thanks.##Name removed##"
"I had an account with Freecall.com (a Betamax service) and I accidentally allowed them to "top-up" my credit automatically thru my credit card. Big mistake !
I'm now using other voip services and tried to cancel my account with Freecall.com. No luck. When I log in to my account I have the option to
change my credit card details (Change button). Clicking this button takes my straight to the "Buy more credit" page. No way to cancel the account or to remove my credit card details.
I have sent Freecall and Betamax numerous emails (thru their webform)
requesting to cancel my account or at least to delete my credit card details. No reponse at all.
Finally I filled out the webform on the Betamax site and used "Need
large company account" as the subject. Well, I finally got their
attention and they promised to cancel my account. This was 2 days ago
and my account is still active with credit card details present.
Hope this helps some other users. Do not give Betamax your credit card
Email addresses they used:
"I have not used my card or my account with your company yet i seen online 2 transactions from my account to your company i didnot make i informed the bank and like to resolve and track down who has been usin my card i'd apprecuiate info on this matter"
"I am reaching you from XXX (Name removed) in California USA.
I found a mastercard Credit Card on my statement leading me to you. The charge is $14.40. Can you send me an invoice for this charge please. CC ending in 0626. I don't reconise this charge and would like to know what the charge was for. Thank you"
XX Company Name, Sweden removed XX, has on February 22, 2007, been invoiced from Betamax Voip Credit Cologne, EUR 29,75 via Eurocard. Could you please inform us what this is about.
XX Name removed XX"
"Last month and this month you charged my credit card card $34.08 for a service that I did not request order, approved or gave you consent. I have never authorized a telephone provider outside the United States to be my carrier of international or domestic calls. My international and local provider is "VERIZON" I am disputer those unauthorized and fraudulent charges. "
"my debit card has charges from your company in the amount of 40 cents and for $13.35. you need to contact me immediately concerning this matter. i can be reached at the email address above or by phone at 1-xxx-xxx-xxxx or 1-xxx-xxx-xxxx. my bank has been made aware of these fraudulent charges also a police report has been made."
"My name is XX Name removed XX. I received a charge of $33.51 on my weststar account charged on 02-22-07. And i did not authorized this charge on my account please reverse these charges and have someone contact me # xxx-xxx-xxxx."
You have withdrawn five times money from my Visa account, but I am not a customer of you!!! Please inform me asap for which VOIP-account this money was.
Please answer immediately and tell me what you will do in this matter.
2. Error Message Fraud
Whilst any company in the world will have some technical issues somewhere down the line, Betamax and their customers seem to have to live with errors on a regular basis.
In all case these errors will be to the detriment of the user. We have yet to come across a postive comment that the user was actually credited for errors caused by Betamax.
The most common error seems to be Code Error 33, which will means that either your account has been blocked or in some cases "The other party did not reply due to unknown error"= Money gone !!
Another favourite is blocking accounts within 24-48 hours after making a payment or older accounts are suddenly blocked without explanation or feedback from Betamax.
3. Duplicate /Triplicate Charge Fraud
Billing, Billing Billing - Another favourite Betamax pastime activity is to charge users double or triple the amount they are trying to top up.
And if you ever try to hassle Betamax with regular requests for an update on the progress of your request you will be sent the following email:
"Final request: Please stop e-mailing us. If you don't stop e-mailing us we will ban your e-mail address so your e-mails won't get through. Also we will block your account permanently.
Betamax Customer service"
Unbelievable - this is a prime example of their attitude towards customers. Whilst many users may have an unproblematic experience using any of the Betamax VoIP services (including us) there are just too many complaints that these issues can go unnoticed any longer.
So what can you do?
1. Just move over to another VoIP service, but please cancel your account
2. Decide to move away, but give Betamax endless daily hassles until they resolve your request and then cancel your account.
3. Actively complain on forums and warn others of future potential problems with Betamax.
If anybody (preferably in Germany) decides to take action please let us know and we will cover the details here in this Blog.
Good luck !!