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Spectrum charges surprise TL residents

Robocall to blame, but from whom?

TUPPER LAKE — Three residents in Tupper Lake have contacted the village mayor recently, saying they were signed up for a $30-per-month streaming service by the internet or cable provider Spectrum without their knowledge or consent.

Mayor Paul Maroun said they told him robocalls triggered the additional charges, using misleading questions and voice recording to conduct what he called a “scam.”

“It was a robocall that said, ‘Are you busy at the moment?'” Maroun said. “and once you said ‘yes,’ … they record the ‘yes’ and they bill it.”

He said each victim had been surprised to notice an additional $30 extracted from their account for a network streaming service they never wanted.

Lara Pritchard, a spokeswoman for Charter, Spectrum’s parent company, said she has not heard of this complaint before. She brought up the possibility of “spoofing” when scammers masquerade as a company.

“If an offer doesn’t sound right, customers can ask the representative on the phone to validate they are an employee by looking up their account number,” Pritchard wrote in an email. “Spectrum representatives will always have an account number. Then call Spectrum (at their customer service number on your bill) and ask if there is any such person working there.”

However, the people who got these calls say the money was taken out of their Spectrum bill.

Fabien Levy, a spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office said while the office has received a number of complaints about Spectrum, none were related to this issue.

A warning to be vigilant

One alleged victim of the call is retired village electric department superintendent Marc Staves, who returned to the village board for a meeting on Wednesday as a civilian to tell the board about his experience and to warn others.

Staves said he caught the additional charge on the first month it landed on his bill. He said he is not sure how it happened because he does not remember taking a call. Staves said Spectrum told him a robocall was placed, but he said his phone records show he never answered it.

“That’s kind of underhanded,” Staves said when he learned how the call works at the village board meeting.

He has automatic payments set up on his account, but still checks the amount.

“It’s always good to keep track of your automatic deductions,” Staves said.

He was told the company would refund his money, but said after a week it still hadn’t. When he called again he said he was told the $30 charge would be taken off his next month’s bill.

“I was okay at that point until I hung up the phone and thought about it,” Staves said. “It’s really no different than me going into your wallet, taking $30 out of your wallet and telling you I’m going to work it off next month.”

He said he is “not satisfied” with the resolution Spectrum offered him, saying it is being done in a “roundabout way.”

Maroun told Staves he has received two other calls from villagers about the same problem, both for $30-per-month charges. He said those people have gotten their money back.

Village talk

“I think a letter and a call is in order from us to (Spectrum),” Maroun said.

He said the board would send the regional manager a letter asking the company to stop this practice and requesting a time to talk.

The village and town of Tupper Lake have a franchise agreement with Spectrum, formerly Time Warner Cable, which is owned by Charter Communications. The town is currently renegotiating its agreement.