With the summer storm season underway, last week Tahma Metz did what she's been doing all her life -- she dialed the weather line to hear the latest forecast.
But instead of Verizon's signature tone and a gravelly voiced meteorologist forecasting the weather, Metz says she was held a captive audience for more than a minute by a long, finger-drumming commercial promoting various Verizon services.
Trouble was, that day, that moment, following the commercial message, instead of the weather report the voice on the phone said, "The current weather isn't available." Goodbye. Hung up.
"I just went through the roof!" says Metz, a Bethesda resident and native Washingtonian who has been calling the weather line so many years that she refers to it the old-fashioned way -- WE6-1212. "It really is annoying. Nobody wants to listen to this!"
Next, Metz called the trusty time number that has been working for decades ("TI4-2525") just to see if Verizon had front-loaded it with an advertisement. It had: "Verizon offers a variety of calling plans, DSL service and now . . . ," came the spiel.
"That first one just kept going on and on. I could've put my fist through the phone -- and I'm not a violent person," she says. "To me, it is just generating antipathy about Verizon instead of goodwill" for providing a public service.
Metz wants to know where to complain "to set this back to the way it used to be."
Good news in the forecast for commercially irritated consumers: Verizon spokesman Christy Reap says the ads are being discontinued.
"As you know, the telecommunications world is a radically different one from the days of WE6-1212 and TI4-2525. It's a very competitive marketplace, and Verizon is constantly evaluating ways of getting the word out about our products and services," says Reap.
For about the past month, she adds, Verizon has done "some test-marketing" on the weather and time lines "by putting a short ad on at the beginning of the greeting." The longest was closer to 15 seconds than more than a minute, she adds. But that's a moot point now since they've stopped.
"We've found that the ad hasn't led to many sales, so we're removing them . . . ," she says.
Not only that, Reap says there will be no James Earl Jones or the signature Verizon tone before the weather and time. "You hear the woman's voice greeting, 'Good afternoon,' and she gives the current temp," she says. "Then the weatherman's voice comes second, and he gives more detail."
If you don't have a Paypal account, all of that scamming spam that urges you to contact their fraudulent Paypal look-alike Web sites and give up your Paypal password doesn't matter, other than the annoyance. Fake Paypal spam may be the most high-volume fraud online -- perhaps because when it works, the crooks get access to an account.
But some of these phishing spams are getting too convincing. Several readers wondered about recent attacks that seemed to tandem two spams -- one asking to verify that you had opened another e-mail address on your Paypal account, the other asking to verify that you had recently listed a new mailing address. Both looked like what a Paypal message might look like.
So, a reminder: Never respond to e-mails supposedly from Paypal telling you something's wrong. Instead, go in the front door of your Paypal account (typing in the URL) and check your "profile" that your active address and e-mail haven't changed. Once assured nobody's messing with your account, then forward the spam to Paypal's security folks at email@example.com.
Within 24 hours, you'll receive an automated response that confirms the spam was "not sent to you by Paypal," and instructs to "not enter any personal or financial information into this website." If you already have, it tells you to "change your password and secret question and answer information" and offers steps to take if you find unauthorized activity on your account.
Got questions? A consumer complaint? A helpful tip? E-mail details to firstname.lastname@example.org or write Don Oldenburg, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.