Verizon Wireless filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Phoenix outlining an ongoing scheme that used Premium SMS campaigns to defraud Verizon Wireless and its customers, and asked the Court for an injunction to put an immediate stop to the activities.
The Texas Attorney General also filed a similar suit against the same defendants. Verizon Wireless assisted and supported the Texas prosecutors in their investigation.
"Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has been a strong partner in shutting down this fraudulent activity. Verizon Wireless also is suing Jason Hope and his associates and co-conspirators who established this intricate fraudulent enterprise," said Steve Zipperstein, general counsel and vice president of legal and external affairs, Verizon Wireless. "As our work in the judicial system continues, I urge our competitors to quickly follow and put a stop to this fraud and ensure all mobile customers are protected."
Customers who believe they have been affected by this scheme and think they are due a refund can visit www.premiumsmsrefunds.com to learn how to submit a claim. The website provides full names of all the Premium SMS campaigns and associated short codes Verizon Wireless has been able to trace back to the defendants in the lawsuit. The campaign names would appear in the Data Charges section of detailed wireless bills; customers can use MyVerizon online to get detailed bills going back one year.
Verizon Wireless recently became aware of the possible fraud and immediately launched an investigation. Among the things the company discovered and that are explained in detail in the lawsuit include the fact that the defendants defrauded Verizon Wireless by misappropriating approved short codes for unapproved "shadow" campaigns that did not comply with Verizon Wireless' consumer protection and disclosure policies.
The lawsuit further shows the defendants were blocking certain IP addresses from accessing the websites associated with these shadow campaigns or were re-directing visitors to shell websites, preventing Verizon Wireless and its auditors from finding the shadow campaign websites in the normal course of monitoring Premium SMS campaigns for compliance.
The suit names Jason Hope and Wayne P. DeStefano and companies they own, including Cylon, Jawa and EyeLevel Holdings among others, and asks for an immediate injunction to stop these companies from further defrauding Verizon Wireless and its customers as well as monetary relief.
Since 2004, Verizon Wireless has brought more than 20 lawsuits against
wireless spammers, telemarketers and pretexters, and the company's record of protecting customer privacy puts it at the forefront of the U.S. wireless industry. Verizon Wireless has won permanent injunctions against individuals and companies that have engaged in illegal activity and Verizon Wireless has donated tens of thousands of dollars on behalf of its customers to domestic violence prevention and law enforcement organizations as a result of these settlements.