Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Help Me Howard: Phone Bill
If you have a cell phone, and that includes most of us, watch this next story -- because one day it might be you. A guy who got a $7,000 phone bill -- of course he didn't make those calls, but try convincing the phone company. How do you do it? Call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser, of course.
WSVN -- Between his carpentry work and his brother's supply store, Greg is one busy fellow.
Greg McGilloway: "We work, regular, six days a week, and, you know, try to take care of the family stuff in the meantime."
Of course, like everybody else, Greg is able to keep track of everything and everyone with his cell phone.
Greg McGilloway: "In this day and age, you need a cell phone. Everybody has a cell phone."
But not everybody has a cell phone problem like Greg.
The trouble began last summer when Greg's phone disappeared, so he called the phone company.
Greg McGilloway: "And I needed to have my phone shut down."
Greg forgot about it, until he got his next phone bill.
Greg McGilloway: "I just received a bill for $2,500."
Whoever had Greg's phone must have been real homesick -- calling Pakistan on July 20th, five times; the next day, 18 times; and, on the 22nd, 22 times. Greg quickly called the phone company again.
Greg McGilloway: "And said, 'Listen, you guys still have to do something about this phone. I'm getting these crazy bills,' and they said, 'We'll take care of it.'"
They didn't -- a month later Greg got another phone bill. By now the thief must have had Pakistan on speed dial with the bill for $5,205 for that month.
Greg McGilloway: "Within two months it was from $2,500 to $5,000, to $7,500 -- just like that."
Finally, the phone company shut the crook down and then called Greg with $7,647 worth of bad news.
Greg McGilloway: "They're just saying I owe it, and that's it."
Faced with a $7,600 in calls to Pakistan, Greg had a quick reply.
Greg McGilloway: "I told them, 'Look, I'm not paying this,' and they turned it over to a credit agency."
Now the collection agency is calling Greg wanting money -- Greg says he can't pay and shouldn't have to pay.
Greg McGilloway: "I'd like to see them taking responsibility for the deal they made in the beginning -- the phone should be shut off, and I shouldn't be liable for their mistake at $7,500. That's ridiculous."
But how can Greg get out of a phone mess like this? Make one call -- to help me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "Greg did the right thing by immediately canceling his phone service. The problem is proving he did it. To protect yourself, ask them to send an email confirming the cancellation. If you don't get it, send them a certified letter noting the conversation that your cancelled the contract. If you don't do either of those, you have to rely on the company keeping a record of the cancellation."
When we talked to the phone company they agreed to investigate the calls to Pakistan from Greg's phone.
They found there was an error on their part.
They told Greg they were wiping out the $7,624 phone bill and would like to have him back as a customer.
Howard says if you are having trouble with your cell phone company don't take "No" for an answer.
Howard Finkelstein: "Do like Greg did, don't give up. Keep after the phone company until you talk to the right person who can correct the mistake -- or keep bugging them until you become such a pain that they will give you what you want to get you to go away."
Of course the phone company didn't listen to Greg until we got involved. But the bottom line: the $7,600 phone bill someone ran up with someone in Pakistan is no longer Greg's problem.
Greg McGilloway: "I'm glad. I'm glad I had some help. If I didn't have help, it would have cost me. I'd have to hire my own lawyer just to get it resolved and Help Me Howard did a great job, a great job."
Patrick Fraser: "If you ever win a billing dispute with a company, like Greg did, you need to make sure the company sends a letter to the credit bureaus to erase the blemish they put on your credit. We have asked the phone company to do that for Greg, so this mistake won't be held against him in the future."
Dialed up a dilemma that has left your head ringing? If it's time to disconnect from it, hit speed dial to us. I can promise we won't hang up on you.
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