SINGAPORE — A StarHub customer was left stunned after receiving a bill of over S$1,500 for alleged Google Play transactions she did not make.
Despite filing a police report and seeking assistance from both StarHub and Google, the customer claims she received ambiguous responses and was not given a clear path to rectify the issue.
In fact, the customer received a lawyer’s letter from StarHub demanding payment, leaving her frustrated and at her wits’ end.
The victim shared her ordeal on the Complaint Singapore group, and expressed her regret that she should have brought this up on social media earlier.
“Naive as I was, I thought I could trust big organisations like StarHub, Google and CASE to help make this right for their loyal customers but instead got thrown in the face with a lawyer’s letter. ”
In a post published on 12 March, the customer shared that 11 unauthorised Google Play Content transactions were made between 19 September to 17 October 2021.
She discovered the fraudulent transaction only when she received a StarHub bill that charged her $1,343.90.
Despite contacting StarHub immediately, she was directed to Google.
The customer claims her account was hacked and used to purchase game items from YoungJoy Technology Limited on Google Play Store.
A search online shows that the company is registered in Hong Kong, and known for produces games such as Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.
The victim later filed a police report on 24 October 2021, and Google replied her on 31 October, but was told that the tech firm was unable to help, and asked the victim to contact the financial institution.
“As no financial institution was involved yet, I wrote back to StarHub. StarHub redirected me back to Google again,” the victim shared that she wrote to Google again but no response.
Received lawyer’s letter from Starhub, demanding payment
The victim received another StarHub bill in November 2021; the total fraud transactions amounted to $1,504.09.
“At this point I was very confused, because I already flagged that this is a scam and that it should be cut off.”
The victim continued to follow up with CASE, StarHub, and Google between December 2021 and last year to resolve the issue. On 6 February 2022, she received an email from Google stating that they are reviewing her case.
However, even after the victim’s multiple efforts to flag the issue, she received a lawyer’s letter from StarHub on 14 November last year, demanding payment for the fraudulent transactions.
Victim flagged the issue but been ‘taiji-ed’ around
“It’s just so frustrating to be taiji-ed and pushed around! No one wants to take responsibility to investigate the matter, ” the victim expressed.
“As a consumer, I have no visibility of the processes between the companies and hope not to be forced to make payment for the unauthorised charges on my mobile bill.”
Hoping to reach StarHub and prompt action, the victim shared her experience on social media and called for companies to take preventative measures to protect vulnerable consumers.
“The least I could ask for is to please stop stop stop pushing us around without any clarity of a specific point of contact for resolution.”
StarHub claims billed the victim on behalf of Google through Direct Carrier Billing
According to The Straits Times, StarHub conducted an investigation and discovered that the customer had the Direct Carrier Billing (DCB) service on her mobile line, allowing her to make third-party mobile content purchases by charging them to her mobile bill.
StarHub said they activated the Premium Rate Services (PRS) Barring Service after the victim complained to block further DCB charging to her mobile bills.
The telco claimed that it had billed the victim on behalf of Google through DCB, and advised her to clarify the matter with Google, including the possibility of reversing the charges, as the telco “did not have visibility of the transactions” between them.
Google confirmed it was looking into the matter and suggested that Google Play users enable the authentication function to avoid unintended purchases from apps and games outside Google Play’s Family section.
Apps and games in Google Play’s Family section would automatically require users to authenticate any purchases.
But this feature does not apply to other content outside that section, including in-app purchases, unless users switch on the authentication function. Google also recommended that users report unrecognized charges to their accounts.
The consumer watchdog CASE confirmed that the consumer had lodged a complaint against StarHub, which CASE discussed with StarHub and other parties involved in the bill, but the issue remained unresolved.
CASE later advised the victim of other available recourse options, which it did not elaborate on.
Netizens share their negative experiences with unauthorized transactions and unresponsive customer service
However, multiple netizens took to ST’s Facebook post to share their negative experiences with local telcos when dealing with unauthorized transactions.
One netizen claimed that their 10-year-old son’s phone was hacked and used to make purchases totalling $1,500, despite having a child account that required a parent password for downloads.
“Whatever he download from playstore needed the parent password. Starhub can’t help. Google doesn’t reply emails. We even called and tell us to email.”
A netizen shared her own experience with a similar issue with Singtel. She explained that Singtel had denied responsibility and directed her to the game service provider, which was allegedly an exclusive partner allowed to charge Singtel clients directly through phone bills.
Another netizen commented on the victim’s Facebook post on Complaint Singapore, shared that she experienced the same issue with StarHub, with unauthorized transactions amounting to $1500 each time. She followed StarHub’s advice to install parental lock and disable the payment function, but the same thing happened again.
A group member also faced a similar issue where hackers used his card to make small game purchases via Google Play, which he also played, to avoid suspicion.
“But mine were not charged to Starhub billing. Best is to check your Google Play account under Subscription and print and save the pages which the suspected payments were made.”