Zombie Earthlink Accounts

I am left to wonder today how much of Earthlink's remaining income is from zombie accounts.  I generally hate the hassle of dealing with a changed credit card number, but one advantage is that I discover some zombie accounts that I have forgotten about and keep charging my card every month.

Today I had an amazing one -- from my old Earthlink dial-up account.  I had thought I cancelled Earthlink something like 8 years ago (I certainly have not used it since about 2003).  That is several credit cards ago and so I have absolutely no idea how they were able to continue to bill me, but they were, right up to this month when my corporate card number changed due to a fraud alert.  It is kind of depressing that I spent well north of a thousand dollars over the years on a service that I would never even consider using again, but that is the danger that comes as a company gets larger and one can't personally inspect every bill that gets paid.

Of course, despite evidence that I never used the account, they would not waive the final month's billing and threatened collections, etc.  They wanted my credit card for one last charge, and then they would cancel.  Which made me suspicious that this is how they got my credit card for the last five years - by asking for it for one last charge and then continuing to bill for 5 years.  So I told them I did not trust them with my new credit card number and to send me a paper bill that I would pay by check.  As a final insult, they said they had to charge me an extra dollar for the paper bill.

If I had time, I would challenge them and give them grief, but sometimes one has to put one's ego away and just move on with the loss.

During the call, it was very, very clear that trying to collect money on zombie accounts that people had forgotten about was very, very typical for their customer service folks.  Leading me to wonder just how much of Earthlink's revenue comes from such zombie accounts.  As a funny side note, they were perfectly fine taking money from me without any identification, but would not cancel the account without an extensive account verification, a verification that is rather hard if one has not used the account in about 8 years.

  • Zombie Dad

    My eight year old son, who is now in college and no longer eight, opened an account with a MORG called Runescape all those years ago. Through numerous protests and credit card cancellations, these charges just keep showing up at 5.95 a month.

  • Johnathan

    Some vendors love to receive payment using Bitcoin as it completely protects them from chargeback fraud. Others, however, shy away from it, as each payment *must* be initiated by the sender, and they cannot set up these sorts of zombie payments. Guess which ones are earning money providing a legitimate service people are willing to pay for, and which are trying to get paid for doing nothing?

  • herdgadfly

    I am sure that eight years of non-usage is sufficient evidence for a full refund. I would ignore the paper bill completely and just for spite, I would dispute the credit card charges for as many months back as the law allows. The card company must then remove the payments from Earthlink's merchant account and your company will most certainly win the dispute.

    You also have the power of the Coyote Blog to let consumers know about the bad guy out there sucking unearned income from credit card account holders. There is one thing that I do not understand - and that is how Earthlink got the renewal information about your credit card. The expiry date and CVC2 code on the back of the card change every couple of years. If you did not give it to them, they likely acquired the information from your unsuspecting receptionist or secretary - which is of course, fraud.

  • herdgadfly

    Well, I found the nasty contract that Earthlink uses. In the language you give them the power to obtain changes from the credit card company relating to your credit card.

    http://www.earthlink.net/about/policies/isa.faces

  • obloodyhell

    Guess how much your approximate waste was, and offer some two-bit shyster half of it if they can make them cough it all back up for you. Recompense only available on successful return.

  • marque2

    Or he could just sell it for 10 cents on the dollar to some collection agency.

  • Settin it str8

    I just had a similar challenge attempting to cancel an Xbox Live account with Microsoft. They needed to bill me 1 more month???, even though i was calling well before my due date--and all of these services bill in advance?? I'll be interested to see if the charge appears on my next billing statement.

  • glenn.griffin3

    I have had good luck (2/2) calling up the credit card company, and disputing the zombie charges. Make sure you make the first report, rather than the zombie billing company. They will remove 3 months charges (amazon visa/chase) and send a note to the billing company to dispute the charges. I think VISA requires actual proof of service. Both times, the company failed to respond properly, and the charges remained removed.

    I get the vague impression that the VISA company awards to the consumer on the basis of your credit score. Good credit = you win. I only have a couple years' experience with an internet marketer on that count, though.

  • slocum

    Did you know about the credit card 'services' that enable zombie providers to bypass expiration dates and even follow you to new accounts:

    http://www.nasdaq.com/personal-finance/pull-the-plug-on-recurring-charges.aspx

  • irandom

    Reminds me of someone that used BillMeLater(NagMeForever) to pay their ISP. It turns out they each wanted the other service to cancel, that was a weird call to overhear.

  • obloodyhell

    I'm curious, BTW, how much of AOL's users are zombies.

    Of course, most of the actual remaining AOL users are zombies in real life, too.

  • Benjamin Cole

    I was even stupider. I paid Earthlink $30 a month as I did not want to change my e-mail address, that I had used for business purposes for years and years.

    Turned out I was paying for full Internet access, not just the mail account. That was $8 a month.

    Now I use gmail.

    Similar story on phone service and four landlines. Went to a single cell phone, saved $200 a month.

  • John

    I really hate to admit I still have and use my earthlink account. It's probably too high for what I'm getting but I like their alias email features, I can create a new and disposable email address when some service I only plan on using one time demands a email address. And the spamblocker feature works very well. Lastly I'd hate to give up the email address I've used for so long. The cost (so far) is worth it.