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Verizon puts cellphone customer through the wringer....Can you imagine this?

Posted by on Jun. 12, 2009 at 12:28 PM
  • 2 Replies

The company tries to hold an Aliso Viejo man accountable for $10,000
worth of Internet access in a month. It eventually admits a billing error.
David Lazarus
June 10, 2009
We've all found unexpected charges on our phone bills at one time or another.
But nothing compares with the nearly $10,000 hit that Aliso Viejo resident
Mark Elliot took from Verizon Wireless.

And even though it seems pretty obvious this had to be a mistake on somebody's part,
Verizon's first instinct was to stick to its guns.

"We believe in the accuracy of the charges," Ken Muche, a company spokesman,
told me after checking into Elliot's situation.

The company would eventually back down, but not before wiping out Elliot's
checking account. More on that in a moment.

Elliot's cellphone nightmare began last week when he received a notice from
Bank of America saying a payment had bounced on his online bill-pay service.
He looked into it and discovered that Verizon was trying to charge him $9,993.88
for his April bill.

"I practically had a heart attack," Elliot, 56, told me.
"Nearly 10 grand in cellphone costs?
How could that be?"

He called Verizon. Elliot said a service rep laughed when she accessed his bill
and agreed that it had to be an error. She said the company would drop the charge.

Then another Verizon rep called over the weekend. She said the company
had double-checked its records. The bill stands. Elliot would have to pay up.

"The vibe I got from her was like I was some kind of criminal," he recalled.
"I told her this couldn't be real. Who gets charged $10,000 for cellphone use?
But she said I had to pay."

The bill showed $182.96 in monthly access charges, $5.17 in taxes and fees . . .
and $9,805.75 in wireless Internet activity.

According to the bill, Elliot used his cellphone to upload, download
or otherwise access more than 44,000 megabytes worth of data
in a single month.

That's the equivalent of downloading about 11,000 songs from iTunes
or 60 full-length movies.

Now, it's possible that Elliot is some kind of deranged Internet hog
who spent the month squirreling away copies of "The Lord of the Rings,"
"Lawrence of Arabia" and all 17 episodes of "The Prisoner." But I doubt it.

"I'm a mountain climber," he said. "When I'm not working as a computer consultant,
that's what I'm doing. I don't play on my computer for fun."

Also, guys who are running some kind of Internet scam typically don't turn to
people like me, hand over their phone bills and bank records and agree to have
their name run in the newspaper. That's just asking for trouble if you're not on
the level.

So I pressed Verizon to explain how somebody could run up almost $10,000
in cellphone charges in just one month, especially when that customer's bills
show no other unusual activity.

Muche said he couldn't address Elliot's case in particular. But generally speaking,
a bill like this could happen if someone was using their cellphone as a wireless modem
for their laptop, and if that person was, say, running streaming video online all day
or playing a graphic-heavy game for hours on end.

Elliot laughed at both suggestions. "I don't do either of those things," he said.

In fact, he said he has hooked up his laptop to his cellphone only once or twice
to access a client's network or check the weather before a mountain climbing trip.

"The thing I use to connect my phone to my computer mostly sits in
the glove compartment gathering dust."
Elliot figured his cellphone account had to have been hijacked by some hacker,
who spent April stocking up on thousands of music or movie files.
But Verizon refused to even consider that notion.

The company told him that the activity was on his account
and that was all there was to it. Ten thousand dollars, please.

By Monday night, however, Verizon execs seem to have realized
they had it wrong -- and were about to have the whole episode
detailed in the media.

Elliot said a high-ranking company official called him to say that the charge
was being dropped -- for real this time.

"It was an Olympic gold medal backstroke performance," he said.
"She was as deferential as any corporate person I've ever spoken with in my life."

Elliot woke up Tuesday morning to another notice from BofA
saying something was amiss with his account.
Turns out Verizon had once again billed his account for the entire
$9,993.88 -- and this time BofA paid the bill.

This resulted in Elliot losing the $781 he had in his checking account
and then owing more than $9,200 to the bank.

So I contacted BofA. Tara Burke, a bank spokeswoman,
said the way the online bill-pay system works is that if insufficient funds
exist in an account, the first two attempts by a business to withdraw funds
will be rejected.

But if the business tries a third time, the transaction will be processed.

"This is a standard process," Burke said. "The person might have funds
coming in, we don't know."

In any case, a BofA official contacted Verizon, and the cellphone company
promised to return the cash to Elliot's checking account by today.
"The situation has been rectified," Burke said.

Indeed, Elliot said he got a conference call late Tuesday from several
Verizon execs, who acknowledged that it looked like his cellphone service
had been hacked.
"They fell all over themselves apologizing," he said.

And it turns out yet another catastrophe was avoided. In combing through
his bank records to deal with Verizon and BofA, Elliot said he discovered
that no car payments had been deducted from his account for several months.
Apparently there was some snafu with the online bill pay setup.

"If it wasn't for this whole thing, my car might have been repossessed,"
Elliot said.

Kinky is using a feather. Perverted is using the whole chicken..

I'm a 30 yr old mom to 3 kids 9,7,5 yrs old..Wife to  the greatest man in the world of 11 yrs..SAHM..Not looking or giving advice on how to raise MY/YOUR kids..I'm a smoker,a toker,a social gulper..We live in Texas..Im spiritual,anti-gun,non-organic,swearing,President respecting woman..We make good money and buy American made products..

by on Jun. 12, 2009 at 12:28 PM
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Replies (1-2):
by on Jun. 12, 2009 at 12:31 PM

Holy Moly Man!! I would crap bricks! 

by Christy on Jun. 12, 2009 at 12:33 PM

LOL they do that a lot no matter what they state they do not make mistakes.

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