Sprint Harasses Grieving Mother For Two Years

We got this email from Sharon G. about Sprint.

It’s best to let it speak for itself, without any further elaboration, but we can break it down for you: after Sharon tragically lost her son in a car accident, Sprint harasses her for two years to pay the bill, even going so far as to call her up periodically and ask, “Is your son back yet?”

Um, no. This isn’t The Monkey’s Paw. Sprint — Absolutely Despicable.

    My experience with Sprint has been an outrageous one. Have I ever signed a contract with them..NO! My son went out and got a cell phone through Sprint. He did not have a bank account so he would pay me and I would pay it with my ATM card. I would have to get a CSR on the phone and put my son on the line to give his permission for me to pay his bill. This was a regular problem monthly. My son was very good about paying the bill he always gave me cash first.

    On October 19,2004 there was a car accident. My son was killed instantly. My daughter was in the car as well as a friend of his. My daughter was taken by life flight to the Trauma Unit. They were able to save her legs but she was very badly injured with numerous broken bones and extensive injuries. Then 3 days after the accident she slipped into a coma and we thought we were going to lose her too. She recovered but it’s been a long hard road to recovery for our family. Her medical bills alone totaled over $670,000.

    Sprint soon started calling and asking for our son as his cell phone bill was late. I told them he was dead and he won’t be paying it. They then informed me that I was responsible for the payment. I have never had and now never will do business with their company. I feel if when he was alive I had to get permission from him to pay his bill his contract died with him. His cell phone died as well.

    Sprint didn’t stop calling or sending bills. They wanted me to send them a copy of the death certificate. I told them that what needed was public information and they could go get it themselves if they needed it so bad. They even had a CSR call me and ask “if my son was back yet?” I replied, ” I wish he was but people don’t usually return from heaven and I consider this harassment.” It’s been two years and they have cut back the calls and bills, but I don’t think they have given up.

    I have pictures of the car and it’s a miracle that anyone survived. I know there must be other families out there that are devastated by the loss of a loved one and going through harassment and bullying from this company.

Comments

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  1. RickyF says:

    Okay her story is sad but sending a certified death certificate could have forestalled a lot of aggravation. How does a company know that someone isn’t shining them on about a death in order to get out of an obligation?

    Sprint may have been insensitive but most companies do something like this when proof is lacking.

  2. aka Cat says:

    So, they asked her for a death certificate and she wouldn’t provide it? That’s her problem.

    If she gives them a copy of the death certificate right now and they don’t forgive the entire debt, then she might have something to complain about.

    For now, her only valid complaint is that her son died.

  3. TedOnion says:

    I agree. When someone dies, and it is time to settle the estate, you usually have to prove that they are dead. Asking for a copy of the death certificate is not too much to ask. I would expect that one call and one fax would clear this all up.

    Sorry about your loss Sharon.

  4. homerjay says:

    I have to agree. Its incredibly unfortunate and sad that she lost her son, but Sprint is owed money. Whether its $32 or $320,000, money is owed. They don’t forgive your mortgage when you die, why should they forgive this?

  5. sam says:

    When my grandfather died (I was his closest living relative) I had to cancel all sorts of services – utilities, credit cards etc. They all request a copy of the death certificate as proof. In 99% of the cases, a fax with a cover letter was sufficient. Presumably the aggrieved actually has copies of the death certificate. The funeral home arranged for me to have 10 copies, including a variety that did or did not show cause of death, depending on what purpose it was needed(i.e., life insurance usually requires cause on the DC).

    Faxing a copy is certainly much easier than expecting Sprint to go out of their way, pay fees (because cities and states do charge fees for this stuff), and wait 6-8 weeks for a copy.

    I feel bad for this woman, but sending a DC is absolutely her responsibility.

  6. tz says:

    I had something similar happen with SBC and my deceased father, however I faxed the death certificate to the first collection company and thought that would be it. Earlier this month I got a call from another (the 4th) collection agency – each time I explained it. This one also wanted me to fax the death certificate and I said they could get it from the city clerk’s office if they needed it but I wasn’t going to bother (it had been over 5 years).

    I called the Public Service Commission – I called them when it started (I switched to Sprint of all things, then a month later they slammed the service back to SBC and cancelled it for nonpayment – then the collections notices started). That got their attention – I got a call from someone (supervisor cubed) from ATT in Texas who said they would straighten it out.

    I know you cant be harrassed by bill collectors for your own debts, but what do you do about someone else who is deceased and they keep bothering you?

    There is probably a PSC like agency for cell phones so maybe they could help.

  7. tz says:

    I would say she should fax or mail a copy of the death certificate – the executor of the estate should do it if she can’t.
    They are just asking for proof he is dead, and a death certificate suffices – normally (see my post above).

  8. madderhatter says:

    Sure, the money is owed but SHE does NOT owe it and shouldn’t be expected to pay for it. She did not sign the contract and they need to stop calling her, period.

  9. Nifle says:

    I use to handle accounts for customers that passed away for a financial institution. A death certificate is typically required for any type of closure to an account. As repeated many times in these comments, the company has to protect itself from fraud.

    As to the fact that them stating she’s responsible, as long as she didn’t sign a contract, the company is in error for even mentioning that she is going to be held liable for an oustanding balance.

  10. Martin says:

    There’s several easy solutions to this. First, she can provide a death certification. Second, she can have someone call and pretend to be the son, and change the home address and telephone number to something non-existent, so that when Sprint calls, it will get a disconnect recording.

    The latter is obviously in poor taste and grossly unethical, but would be just about as effective as the former.

  11. His death is a matter of public record doubtless recorded in the same credit report they checked when he signed a contract, and to which they continue to report. It would not be hard for Sprint to verify the veracity of her statement.

  12. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    I’m shocked at how many people here think that because a grieving mother with an injured child and half a million dollars in medical bills didn’t fax a piece of paper, that justifies harassment and unbelievably nasty comments from Sprint. Someone should be fired over that “Is your son back?” comment alone, if not prosecuted. Also, Sprint has NO claim on her money; their contract with her son was terminated when he died — and if they have a problem with that, they need to take it up with the estate, period.

    They have exactly one right when it comes to his mother: To call every once in a while and POLITELY ask her for a death certificate. Beyond that, their behavior is unconscionable.

    Isn’t it nice to know that if anyone besides yourself ever speaks to Sprint on your behalf, they’ll attempt to hold that person responsible for your debt, whether you actually shared the account with them or not? Isn’t it GREAT to know that after you die, Sprint will harass your family members with inappropriate comments and try to stick them with your bill?

    Yeah, that just guaranteed they’ll never get my business. Nobody messes with MY mom.

  13. tinfoil says:

    As I was the executor of my father’s “estate” I have to side with everyone here who says that the submitter really does need to send the death certificate. Had she done this when they first started calling, this would have very likely prevented the harassment she is experiencing now.

    Playing devil’s advocate here. How many times do you think Sprint has heard the “Oh he or she is dead” thing? There is a reason they require the DC. Until they have proof of death, it’s not real. It is unfortunate, but blame low-life bums who skip out on their bills.

    Submitter may also be on the hook for the amount of the bill owing up to the point of her son’s very unfortunate death, depending on if he had any life insurance or other things in his estate.

    My sister to this day (a number of years after the fact) still gets calls from collections agencies asking for him, as both had their phone numbers listed first initial, last name and both had the same first initial. Most of the time they leave her alone after stating that her father is dead, but I do still occasionally have to send a certificate off.

  14. thrillhouse says:

    Right- its an unfortunate, but simple situation. Upon death, someone becomes responsible for the estate. Depending upon the laws in your state, or any will that was in place, that person could be his mother. At which time she needed to settle his estate. Meaning, use his assets, to pay his bills. And yes, it would have been much easier on her had she of just sent the death certificate to Sprint.

    “I feel if when he was alive I had to get permission from him to pay his bill his contract died with him.” Oh please. Debts are not forgiven upno death. And your feelings aren’t worth much in a court of law. the facts are. And the fact is – he owes the money.

    So many of these situations can be easily resolved by consulting with an attorney and understanting your rights and responsibilities.

  15. GamerJunkdotNet says:

    She didn’t go through the proper channels. She just needed to show the death certificate and the bills would have gone away and the only part that would have been owed would have been for the usage up until his death.

    You can’t just tell a company to go and find the information for themselves. As much as it is difficult to go through what she has gone through, you have to be mature.

    The “is your son back yet?” comment was most likely someone seeing that the customer has not provided any proof of his death and they believe that they were just avoiding the bills.
    People do try this and I’m sorry for your loss.

  16. RulesLawyer says:

    Seems simple to me. The executor should be the one to deal with Sprint, not the mother.

    They’re the same person? Then that’s her obligation. She didn’t have to accept that responsibilty.

    Otherwise, tell them to STFU and let Sprint sue the estate. Twice I’ve been in situations where I’ve known I’m in the right, and a corporation has alleged that I owed them money. After several calls, I’ve concluded by telling them, “please do not contact me about this issue again, unless it is to serve me with a summons for a lawsuit.” That’s been the end of it.

  17. bravo says:

    RulesLawyer:
    since (I assume) you’re a lawyer and I’m not, does something like a cellphone contract become part of your estate? I thought some types of contracts were just void upon the death of one of the parties? Can she just tell them to go F themselmves because the contract is no longer enforceable?

  18. acambras says:

    Does her late son even have an executor (I’m not a lawyer so I really don’t know)? Don’t you have to have a will to have an executor? I don’t know about her son, but many young men don’t have wills.

  19. Metschick says:

    My husband passed away 20 months ago, and most of the financial stuff was in my name anyway. However, I did need to send copies of his death certificate to his cell phone provider, our car insurance company, and his lone credit card holder. It was all very easy, and easily taken care of. I guess I am lucky that we had really just started out, and all we had was our joint savings, which were in my name anyways.

    And I had to file for Executrix of his estate to get access to his checking account, since it was in his name only. I was a little ticked about it, but I understand that that’s the way the legal world spins.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that yes, she should’ve just sent the death certificate, but Sprint’s behavior was heinous.

  20. Metschick says:

    Don’t you have to have a will to have an executor?

    No you don’t. In a case like this, where her son died intestate (that is, without a will), his mother can file to be the Administrator of his Estate. My husband was only 29 when he died, and he didn’t have a will (because like you said, many young men don’t have wills, and because we really didn’t have much to leave behind anyway), and I just went to our local courthouse, and filed the paperwork there.

    Most local courthouses are very helpful, since not a lot of people will get attorneys to file this, especially if the estate isn’t large.

  21. acambras says:

    Thanks for the answer, metschick, and I’m very sorry about your husband.

    And you’re right — although the mom should have sent the death certificate to the creditors, the behavior of the Sprint “CSRs” was heinous.

  22. medusasbedhead says:

    I agree w/acambras; I used to work for a government student loan agency, and we required a DC to write off the debt. Once the DC was received, we would go ahead and wipe out the balance. However, if the DC hadn’t been received w/in a certain period of time after the initial notification that the borrower was deceased, the calls would continue. While the “is your son back yet” comment from Sprint was ridiculous and insensitive, this woman would have a much sturdier leg to stand on if she just faxed the DC over w/a cover letter including a demand that all calls to her home cease and desist. (She should also keep a copy of the fax confirmation, just in case.) If Sprint continues to call 5-10 business days after the fax transmission went through, then this lady should talk to a lawyer, and she’d have a much better case.

  23. 2thompsons says:

    Many cellular companies don’t require a death certificate for proof. It’s tacky and completely rude. She should be sending this up to Sprint’s Customer Relations department.

  24. mechanismatic says:

    IF the mother is not the executrix of the estate, it’s irrelevent how easy it would be for her to file to become the executrix of the estate if her son did not have a will. If she was not on the contract and she is not the executrix and Sprint recognized that she had no authority in the handling of her son’s account by the fact that they required her son to get on the phone with the rep to authorize his mother to make payments on his behalf, then there’s no reason why she is responsible to prove anything to Sprint. For the amount of time and money they’re paying their reps to call the mother, they could be going through that tedious and costly process of acquiring the death certificate themselves.

  25. humphrmi says:

    >Upon death, someone becomes responsible for
    >the estate. Depending upon the laws in your
    >state, or any will that was in place, that
    >person could be his mother

    The mother is only default executor in the case of a minor. In the case of an adult, if he died intestate, the state becomes the executor. Let Sprint fsck with them.

  26. Metschick says:

    his mother can file to be the Administrator of his Estate

    I know I’m quoting myself, but I wrote that to say she can, not that she had to do it.

  27. synergy says:

    Everyone focuses on the DC, but my question is: why didn’t the son have a bank account again? I’ve been poor and barely had a couple of bucks in my account and still had a bank account. If he’s no longer a minor, I’m wondering why he couldn’t have a bank account. Although definitely if the mother never signed anything she wasn’t responsible for his debts. She still could’ve easily gotten rid of them by providing the DC.

  28. Metschick says:

    why didn’t the son have a bank account again?

    Even if he did have a bank account, his mother would not have access to it, unless she filed the appropriate documentation with the court, and was named executrix of his estate.

    That being said, unfortunately, many young men (and women) nowadays don’t have bank accounts. I don’t know how old her son was, but my 20 year old brother just got a bank account a few weeks ago.

  29. GamerJunkdotNet says:
  30. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    Eeeeew Gamer, that blog post is horrible. And completely ignores the facts, which I’m happy to notice are at least somewhat better represented here: Mother != Executor, rudeness != okay, and responsibility to pay off adult childrens’ debts (deceased or not) does not lie with their parents!

  31. Triteon says:

    It is unfortunate that following a loss of this kind that we have to clear up “red tape” such as this. However, sending certified death certificates in order to close accounts is not an unusual course of action.
    After receiving the DC, Sprint would be well-served to back-date the cancellation to the date of death due to the extenuating circumstances, provided the account has not been used.

  32. mechanismatic says:

    Triteon,

    But can Sprint back-date an apology for harrassing someone who they had no business contacting in the first place since her signature was never on the contract and she’s not the executrix of the estate and thus she never had a responsibility to answer their calls much less actually tell them that her son was dead?

  33. kaycee says:

    She did not sign the contract, and she is not a spouse of the deceased, thus she doesn’t owe anything to Sprint. They can check the death records themselves if they don’t believe her.

    I’m surprised by the callousness of some of the comments. Not only was Sharon grieving the tragic loss of her son, she was also dealing with a daughter in ICU and then an extensive recovery. I know from personal experience that a parent in this situation doesn’t have the time or emotional wherewithal to be running off a copy of the death certificate and mailing it in. If you haven’t been through it, you can’t imagine what it’s like. I wouldn’t have done one thing for Sprint in that situation.

    Not every company handles something like this in the manner Sprint has. My then19yo son was critically injured in a freak accident, in a coma for two weeks, in the hospital for 3 months, and in extensive rehab for a year and a half just to regain some of his abilities. While he was in a coma, I called his cell phone company, Cingular, to ask them if they could cancel his contract without penalizing him, because even if he survived, he wouldn’t be able to use the phone for a long time. The CSR agreed to do this without any proof from me (maybe because no amount of acting ability could replicate the emotion in my voice). Then, a few days later, I called Cingular to see if they would temporarily sell me a certain number of extra minutes because of all the phone calls I was having to make to let relatives and friends know about my son’s condition, and to talk to my younger children at home. This CSR added 500 minutes to my account for FREE, and a third Cingular CSR did the same thing two months later, adding 800 minutes FREE to my plan, to be used over a period of the next three months.

  34. Chongo says:

    It depends on how old her son was though. I’m pretty sure in Illinois, your parents are responsible for a percentage of your debt until you are 21-23…. might need more looking into.

  35. Bruce says:

    2thompsons wrote:

    “She should be sending this up to Sprint’s Customer Relations department.”

    I’m sorry, I thought you knew, this website *IS* Sprint’s Customer Relations Department.

  36. GamerJunkdotNet says:

    The point is people lie. Companies get this all the time when a bill goes unpaid. “Oh that person died.” They need proof. Individual reps are different based on each call, but when Collections calls they have one job. To obtain the debt and they have heard those stories over and over again.

  37. Morgan says:

    Except that they don’t have a business relationship with Sharon, so they have no reason to be contacting her about the debt anyway.

  38. Jennifer42 says:

    Exactly- a “do not contact” letter should do the trick, and if they continue to call, she can sue them.

  39. Triteon says:

    But can Sprint back-date an apology for harrassing someone who they had no business contacting in the first place since her signature was never on the contract and she’s not the executrix of the estate and thus she never had a responsibility to answer their calls much less actually tell them that her son was dead?

    mechanismatic– Commas, please.
    Yes– I feel Sprint owes an apology. But given the amount of pretend-you’re-dead fraud out there it is not at all uncommon for a business to ask for a DC. It is not at all uncommon for a family to ask for several copies of a DC in order to close accounts.

    What if I had been a friend of Sharon’s son, and he had lent me $50 without anyone’s knowledge. I was prepared to pay him back, but he suddenly died. Do I owe his mom the money? I didn’t borrow it from her. What if it was $5000? What if it was $5000 and he made me sign a promissory note to pay him back? What are my obligations?

  40. mechanismatic says:

    Triteon,

    If you had borrowed $50 from him without anyone else knowing and then he died, it’s your conscience whether or not you attempt to repay that money to someone who might or might not be the executor/-trix of the estate. If you signed a promissory note and the executor/-trix actually has knowledge and possession of that note, then you’re bound to repay it to the estate (not necessarily the mother unless she is the executrix). Although I’m not authority on the laws regarding promissory notes, so don’t take my word on that.

    The difference here is that the mother did not sign a contract and she’s not the executrix of the estate by default. What if it had been a different person every month who the son had gotten to pay his bill with their credit/debit card in exchange for cash… Would they all be liable for his debt just because they likewise paid his bills? Of course not. The only reason Sprint had his mother’s phone number was that it was the number she called from to pay the bills.

    Just because there are people who defraud companies by claiming to be dead, the people who suffer the loss of a family member or friend should not be put through a ringer because of it. The company could investigate it if needed to. Companies waste a lot of money doing inane things already, I’m sure they can afford to spend money to make back some money. Death certificates can be forged anyway, so how reliable might a poor quality b&w fax be if the mother really were defrauding the company on behalf of her faux dead son? In the same respect, just because some people shoplift, all consumers should not be treated like potential criminals. But that is the mentality of soulless (literally) corporate entities only out for a profit.

    Corporate lawyers argue that companies are legally people, but if that’s true, they’re the worst people in our society – greedy, dispassionate, deceptive, abusive, tricky, and false. If the company suspects the customer of defrauding them by making false claims, they can investigate themselves. Innocent until proven guilty and all that. Why does the burden of proof lie with the agrieved party? But this is all pointless rhetoric. The mother never was a customer and thus never had any reason to answer the phone when they called, much less assist them in getting their money.

  41. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    If the son was a minor, the contract is cancellable by him. But since he’s dead, the mother can somehow assume power of attorney and cancel it for him.