Editor’s Message: Sorenson Communications’ Director of Public Relations Ann Bardsley requested an additional statement on the bottom of our article.
Terry A. LeMaire has come forward with his experience of credit card fraud with Sorenson Communications, advising other VRS users to forbid the interpreters from using the whiteboard or typing down their own personal/financial information whatsoever. His video with a rough transcript is provided below.
Rough Transcript: Good morning, all. I am making this vlog to warn you, beware of Sorenson VRS interpreters. Although this is about Sorenson VRS interpreters this also can apply to Purple, ZVRS, and Convo interpreters as well. Why? Allow me to explain what happened to me. You know VRS interpreters tend to have their own white board with black markers to write down your credit card number, your bank account number, phone numbers, and other pertinent information during the calls. Some VRS interpreters also do type down the information for public display. When the call is done but before we hang up, the interpreters do show me that they have wiped the white board clean. But now I forbid interpreters from using the board at all. It was December 2019 when I had just received my fifth credit card. My previous credit cards, I had to have the bank deactivate them because foreign orders were being made on them without my permission. With this new credit card, I needed to call for activation and I did so using Sorenson VRS. The interpreter asked me if I could tell them my credit card information — my name, the credit card number, the expiration date, and the security number on the back — just so the call itself would be smooth. I gave permission and we proceeded to do the call. Right after the call, I made it explicitly clear to the interpreter to wipe off the information from the board and show me afterwards. The interpreter followed my instructions, and I was satisfied. I thought all was good. Some time later I received a call from my bank, asking me if I made an order over $800. I was confused, reiterating that I never made any foreign orders. The bank revealed that unlike previous times where the credit card information was stolen and the orders were made from out of the country, this time it was in Utah. Utah!? I told the bank I did not order anything from Utah. I knew right there it had to be SVRS. THAT interpreter! The bank disputed the $821 transaction. I had to get a new credit card and subsequently activate it in person at the bank instead of using VRS. Thank goodness for the bank calling me, I would not have known if it was not for that call. I can’t trust SVRS interpreters anymore, period. Even though the SVRS interpreter wiped the numbers off the board, there are still light remnants of the numbers that you can make out and write down on a separate piece of paper. From now on, if you make calls that involve sensitive information, tell the VRS interpreters not to use any boards. I do the same now for SVRS interpreters. I have reported this to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). FCC is investigating Sorenson Communications. Sorenson, you hired interpreters who are former offenders. Thieves. Con artists. Sorenson is wrong to hire those kinds of people. Stop doing that! If this happens to me one more time, I will get a lawyer and have Sorenson shut down for good. I mean it. Have a good day.
Deaf Vee Journal contacted Sorenson Communications to learn of their response to this egregious violation of the customer’s confidential information:
Sorenson takes the privacy of our customers very seriously and immediately investigates all complaints. Sorenson has strict policies in place to protect the privacy and security of our customers’ information. We expect all interpreters to uphold the interpreters’ Code of Professional Conduct. We follow Federal Communications Commission rules and have long-standing policies in place to provide training to all our interpreters regarding confidentiality. We require all employees to complete a background check and drug screening. Sorenson has a zero-tolerance policy for any violation or breach of our customers’ confidentiality, and interpreters found in violation of confidentiality rules face immediate termination. These measures support and honor the trust our customers place in us.— Ann Bardsley, Director of Public Relations [Sorenson]
This is not the first time that a VRS user has shared concerns of VRS interpreters committing fraud with their own debit or credit card information. Online and over-the-phone orders have increased significantly with the pandemic, which is not going away anytime soon. It may be past time for VRS providers to develop and incorporate a new feature where users are allowed to key in their own sensitive information for the other party on the phone call to hear without the interpreters having any kind of access to the said information for increased security.
After publishing this article, Sorenson reached out to Deaf Vee Journal again with an additional comment.
“As Mr. LeMaire has not answered Sorenson’s calls for more information, there is no way to identify the alleged interpreter or the allegations. Sorenson remains committed to investigating the allegations of the customer. Sorenson gives customers the option to enter their own credit card information using touch tones, which does not allow the interpreter to see any of the customer’s information.” Ann Bardsley (Sorenson)
If you suspect that a VRS interpreter may have stolen your debit or credit card information for personal gain, you can file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission in three different ways. You can submit an online report here. You can e-mail the FCC’s Disability Rights Office at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can call the FCC at 844-432-2275 [videophone.]