Cingular Customer Hit With $31,000 in Roaming Charges From Nicaragua

A Florida man has been hit with $31,000 in roaming charges from calls made with his phone. In Nicaragua. One problem. The 77 year-old retiree has never been to Nicaragua. From the AP:

“I told them this is impossible,” DeSofi said.

DeSofi complained of fraud, but Cingular disagreed and tried to collect the money, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported Saturday.

Cingular canceled DeSofi’s account, saying its fraud department did not find any problems with the account. The company reversed its decision after a Herald-Tribune inquiry Thursday.

“We are researching how it was handled from beginning to end,” Cingular spokeswoman Kelly Starling said.

A company representative told DeSofi that his bill had been credited the full amount and with an additional $120, which he could use if he wanted to resume service.

DeSofi said he did not plan to return to Cingular.

Guess that’s another way to get out of your Cingular contract? —MEGHANN MARCO

Florida Man Wins $31,000 Bill Dispute With AT&T’s Cingular [CNN Money]

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  1. Falconfire says:

    A lack of common sense must be a prerequisit for getting a job for Cingular

  2. bones says:

    The ONLY reason Cingular stopped harassing the poor man is because the story hit the news and Cingulair, who knows a man who uses his cell phone everyday in Florida isn’t making 45 calls a day FROM Nicuruaga, is afraid of bad publicity and a lawsuit. A GOOD company would stop, use common sense, and correct the problem BEFORE the 5h1t hit the press. Remember their “customer service” before you sign up with Cingulair (now AT&T).

  3. timmus says:

    Who exactly had to pay those charges off — did Cingular have to pay a Nicaraguan telco, perhaps some reduced wholesale rate? Or was it Cingular’s own charges? I’m just curious… I’m just wondering who’s stuck with the charges if the retiree is exhonerated from them.

  4. bones says:

    Here’s some more of the story:

    DeSofi complained of fraud, but Cingular disagreed and tried to collect the $31,000, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported Saturday.

    “I told them this is impossible,” DeSofi said. “They said, ‘These are all calls made from your phone.'”

    The October bill lists calls from Nicaragua at a rate of about 166 calls per day. The calls continued for 35 days.

    Cingular canceled DeSofi’s account and sent him a letter this month saying its fraud department did not find any problems with the account, but reversed its decision after a Herald-Tribune inquiry.

  5. DieBrucke says:

    Wouldn’t they have questioned how anyone could accrue a $31,000 bill. Exactly how many individuals have actually made $31,000 worth of cell calls in a year, much less a month. Common sense should have led them to assume that it was a billing error and the five-year olds who could not identify the error should probably resume schooling.

  6. Hawkins says:

    166 calls a day? At three minutes per call, that’s over eight HOURS of airtime per day.

    Given two hours of talk time per battery, the user of the phone would need at least five batteries charged and ready, every day.

    The point, I think, is that Cingular / AT&T lack even the most rudimentary fraud-detection systems. Shame on them.

  7. Morgan says:

    Not that it reduces how ridiculous the idea that someone was making 166 calls per day is, but many cell phones can be used while plugged into their charger, so extra batteries aren’t really necessary. It seems likely that someone cloned whatever identifies the phone and sold copies of the phone to a bunch of others, though.

  8. some_yahoo says:

    Methinks that somehow his phone was cloned.

  9. bones says:

    Cingular canceled DeSofi’s account, saying its fraud department did not find any problems with the account.

    Shouldn’t the headline be that Cingular is firing incompetent fraud department personnel, who obviously don’t know fraud if it walks up and shoots them in the face?

  10. homerjay says:

    Wow! So Cingular went back and fixed their wrongdoing and even gave the guy and extra $120 bucks. Do you see the power you have, Consumerist? This guy didn’t even have to mention you and you had Cingular scared shitless!
    OH THE POWER!

  11. boscoeatm says:

    Something like that happened to me with Alltel a while back. My bill came to almost $1000 although it should have been the usual $55! I had all these little 1 minute internet charges from some city in Michigan! After getting the runaround with clueless reps, they transferred me to the fraud department who said this was a billing error and they couldn’t fix it, so of course they transfer me! The next lady was worse. I explained to her I couldn’t be in 2 places at once and there was no way I went to Michigan in the first place! Then she had the nerve to say that I did go to Michigan because “their GPS” showed I did and it couldn’t be wrong. She said I either DROVE ALL NIGHT or flew to Michigan! That’s when I blew my top! After going back and forth for a while FINALLY, she’s like “Oh! I’m sorry sir, It IS showing that you did make a call FROM your hometown in between ONE of these minute charges. YOU WERE RIGHT.”

  12. acambras says:

    ESTOY EN TU TELEFONO
    LLAMANDO A MIS AMIGOZ