Virgin Mobile Can't Seem To Close Dead Woman's Account

Rachel’s stepsister passed away last April, but when she called to cancel her pre-paid mobile account Virgin told her that instead of sending in a death certificate, she should just shut off the phone and ignore it. After 90 days of inactivity, it would automatically be canceled. “I asked if they wouldn’t take a death certificate to close the account, but I was assured that it would be faster to simply let the account run out.” Instead, they added some sort of extra minutes promotion to the account that extended it to the present, so ten months later, it’s still active.

I found the phone a few days ago and since it seems to a perfectly working phone, I thought I would put it to use as an emergency cell phone. I called Virgin to reactivate it.

They were unable to activate the phone because my sister’s account is still open. The phone has not been in use, turned on, nor have any minutes have been added to it since July of 2007. The problem, a minutes promotion went through and extended the life of the account.

I explained to the rep that I had already been through this in July and again, I asked to close the account. The Customer Rep asked me to provide her security information to confirm ownership. I explained again, that she passed away in April of 2007 and I would just like to close down her account, especially as it had been inactive for so long. I didn’t really care about the phone, but for heaven’s sake, I would like the account closed The representative countered that I could just add minutes to her account, since it really didn’t matter whose name was on it if I wanted to use the phone to make calls.

I declined his offer and hung up as I could not wait to get a supervisor on the telephone at that time.

I called back later and pursued the matter with a supervisor. She was very pleasant, but she explained that the only way I could close a phone that had not been in use for over 6 months was to wait out the remainder of time on the account which they assured me would be by the end of Feb.. To close the account now, it would require mailing a certified death certificate to the corporate office and making them push through the closure. I could not simply mail a certificate to them in July of last year or fax one to them now.

Now I appreciate that Virgin Mobile is protecting its customers from potential fraud, but this is ridiculous. My stepsister has been dead for nearly 10 months. In order to close her bank account, all I had to do was bring a death certificate into the branch. Closing credit cards required similar action.

If Virgin says that a phone account will be rendered inactive after 90 days, then it should be rendered inactive after 90 days. I should not be dealing with it months later and being asked to give personal information about her when I have offered to send them proof of her passing.

(Thanks to Rachel!)

Comments

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  1. Xerloq says:

    Why can’t you just ignore it? Otherwise, send a copy of the death certificate certified mail with a letter requesting the account closure and be done with it.

  2. Anonymous says:

    way to reiterate what she just wrote and show your true lack of understanding

  3. Xerloq says:

    @melanie.dawn: What are you talking about? Lack of understanding? Unless she cosigned on her sisters account she has no financial liability for the account – hence, ignore it.

    Otherwise, if she wants to be done with it, simply comply with their request, send the darned certificate!

    I want to know if there is some reason she can’t ignore the account. If she knows that a death certificate is required to close it, why not send it regardless of what some CS drone tells her?

    Otherwise the only story here is that Virgin Mobile suffers from the same inconsistency of policy that every other large corporation suffers from.

    Please contribute a useful comment next time.

  4. Tyr_Anasazi says:

    @xerloq Somebody got up on the wrong side of bed, eh?

  5. Xerloq says:

    @Tyr_Anasazi: Yes, but it’s not my fault. It’s an upcoming story for the Consumerist: How Mattress Scams Make Every Side the ‘Wrong Side of the Bed.’

  6. m4ximusprim3 says:

    Oh, oh, I know this one!

    Phone, meet hammer. All done!

  7. nemesiscw says:

    @xerloq:
    … Because she wants to use the phone, but she can’t because there is an account tied to it.

  8. Sherryness says:

    She is possibly the administrator of her sister’s estate, and is therefore trying to make sure the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed. The missing piece of the puzzle is – where is the money coming from to pay for the phone? Was it pre-paid? Is there money coming out of a bank account somewhere to pay for it? Those could be reasons she needs it switched off as well. I think she’s just being thorough – nothing wrong with that.

  9. bilge says:

    This a prepaid Virgin Mobile phone? Just ignore it then. The number will stop working after 90 days and if any funding sources have been closed, then it’s not costing you anything.

  10. ElenorR says:

    Hi, I submitted the article. They edited it a bit and the editors neglected to include the following, which might make it a bit more clear

    1. It was a pay as you go phone, so no money is needed up front. They can’t automatically charge since the credit card that was associated with the account has been canceled.

    2. I tried to cancel the phone in July and was told to wait 90 days and “run out the account”. 6 months later (180 days) the account is still active.

    3 While I wanted to use the phone, more importantly I wanted to close up any accounts associated with my stepsister.

    4. Virgin Wireless Customer Service would not accept a death certificate to close the account. The CS rep I spoke to said that I would have to deal directly with the corporate office, but could not give me any information on whom I should contact.

    As for the comments, I have already waited for 180 days to clear this up, if there policy says a pay as you go account is good for 90 days, then it should only take 90 days.

    Hope that clears some things up.

  11. DoctorWhom says:

    @Elenorr:
    since its prepaid why does it matter if her name is on the account?

  12. Rask says:

    Well if you want to the phone as an emergency phone, why not get the name changed on the account, use your own credit card to buy the minutes and be done with it.

    You have a phone, the account isn’t in your step-sister’s name anymore and life goes on.

  13. MBZ321 says:

    Just throw the phone away and forget about it. Virgin mobile phones cost almost nothing…

  14. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    @Rask: [Lewis Black] maaaaaybe because they WON’T LET HER CHANGE THE FUCKING NAME! [/Lewis Black]

  15. jwissick says:

    Christ. if you want an emergency phone you can get a $14.00 one at Target….

  16. spenc938 says:

    @MBZ321: Why should she throw away something that is not only functioning 100%, but she also has an actual use for it. Why replace something that still works? It isn’t her fault Vigin Mobile is staffed by a bunch of dumbasses.

  17. redpeppers20xx says:

    I can see wanting to kinda close the book and be done with all of her dealings but a prepay cell phone is a gas station phone…it’s a throw away….heck,Virgin doesn’t even assign you an account number.

    It’s certainly not worth any level of frustration or extra effort. Virgin is correct…if you have no use for the phone recycle the battery and toss the plastic phone in a drawer or a charity bin. Who cares what happens to the minutes or account…at some point the system will close it.

    There is no obligation there….it’s not like she had a contract with fee’s and such.

    I can see what you were trying to do but your attention and energy would have been much better spent elsewhere.

    That phone and it’s ‘account’ deserved about as much thought as an empty soda can she left behind.

    Sorry for your loss but really…let this go..it’s nothing. When my Mom died she had just opened a prepay and I took her phone,shut it off and put it in with her other keepsakes that I held onto. Never gave it another thought.

  18. Parting says:

    It’s a PREPAID phone! My mom uses one, and the phone is under my name, but it does not really matter who’s the owner. She can use it, even if her sister is, sadly, dead. An emergency prepaid phone, it does not really matter who it belongs to.

    (From a pal of mine, I heard that some customers put ”names” like James Bond and 50 Cents as account responsible on prepaid phones).

  19. JAYEONE says:

    sweet! I own one of these phones. I’m happy to hear that, after I’m dead, I’ll be getting free minutes!

    (eye roll)

  20. CG72 says:

    When I decided to upgrade my first pre-paid phone I gave the old one to my daughter for unlimited talking. It was used up in a few days. Then it was donated to a domestic violence safety group.

    The clam-shell I replaced it with has been with my mother for 4 years after I decided to go mainstream with a family plan. I renew it by computer under my name a year at a time, and no one cares as long as the minutes are there.(When her power went out for weeks due to a storm/transformer problem she finally learned how to use it)

  21. CG72 says:

    Clarification – I wasn’t clear about that storm. A tree took out the telephone & cable and the transformer for her electric went down in the same weather event that effected a large area.

    A generator kept the phone charged, along with other necessary things. Mom was glad she had the phone despite initially saying she didn’t need it.

  22. Boberto says:

    I think out of respect for the need of closure, Virgin should offer her that.

    It seems kind of disrespectful.
    You would like to honor the ones you care about by handling affairs in a responsible way. Virgin should accommodate this basic human need.

  23. Chris Walters says:

    @ElenorR: Thanks for clearing things up. I’ve edited the first paragraph to include a reference to the account being pre-paid; I thought all Virgin Mobile accounts were pre-paid so I orginally left that out. :/

  24. sam says:

    If it’s a pre-paid phone, you should be able to just swap out the SIM card with a new one. The SIM is what contains all of the “personal” data, including phone number. The handset itself is just a shell. Since the old SIM is PAYGO, it will be considered dormant after some point of inactivity (I know they told you 90 days, but when I lived in Italy, the standard “discontinued for inactivity” time period was 11 months to 1 year – don’t want to cut people off too soon). If you look at the actual SIM, there should be an expiration date on it.

  25. Rask says:

    @aaron8301: If you read the article closely, Nowhere in the account does it state that she tried to get the account name changes. It just says that Virgin won’t close the account.

    If I go to the Virgin Mobile website(I have an account with em myself), it says “For name and ownership change, please contact Customer Service at 1-888-847-4465″ (This is the Canadian number I imagine since I’m in Canada).

    I highly suspect that they would be more than willing to let the person that sent the message above update the account information to her own info and keep it going as an emergency phone.

  26. ninjatales says:

    There’s no fees involved. Just leave it be.

  27. kbarrett says:

    If the estate has been settled, leave the phone on a park bench … or chuck it in the trash … or use it to drive nails.

    Virgin Mobile’s delusion that there is still a customer after death is amusing, but harmless.

  28. rwalford79 says:

    I have no time for things like this with companies. I simply would use up all the minutes, and when the phone is shut off, then reactivate it. It automatically deactivates after 30-90 days, if all minutes are used. Just make a million calls overseas, and use it all up. Ive gotten a phone from a friend, knew NOTHING of his account, 3 months later after it deactivated itself, I got it activated for a friend.

  29. Buran says:

    @sam: That doesn’t work on CDMA networks, which don’t use SIM cards.

  30. ninjatales says:

    Yeah and one more thing. I read somewhere that Virgin actually does not like to close accounts because they would be losing that phone # which they’d put in money to purchase in the first place.

  31. redstorm986 says:

    I own a prepaid phone…how is there even a name tied to it. I use it just for that reason. You fund it from little cards off the shelf. If you were talking about a monthly paid line this would make a little bit of sense.

  32. STrRedWolf says:

    I’m with AT&T’s prepaid monthly plan. The phone’s sim and account are tied to my name and credit card per contract. The contract says I have to pay X amount per month to keep up service (which previous months are rolled over, but you still have to pay to keep it active). This affects credit ratings, and if the person was still living when they tried to cancel the phone, could be fraud.

    Since Virgin Mobile is CDMA, the account is tied to the phone itself. The best bet is to contact corporate, so the phone can be legally recycled. Let them know how *)!@(*# their CS staff is.

  33. NotATool says:

    Since it’s a prepaid phone, I would say just use the minutes and let them go down to zero. The Virgin CS reps are probably wondering why someone would want to close out a prepaid account. It’s prepaid. You’d be throwing money away by doing that.

    In a way, this is like finding a stash of gift cards in the deceased’s house and then trying to give them back to the store. Just use them.

    Once the phone’s minutes are used and the phone goes inactive, reactivate it under your own name.

  34. StevieZ83 says:

    virgin mobile doesn’t work like at&t pre-paid, the minute system is based on paying cash for the minutes they don’t verify names when you activate that’s why they don’t cancel accounts, if they did just cancel accounts then you’d have people mad when they canceled the wrong one that’s why don’t cancel them, especially if she’s only calling in with her sisters name, they probably have hundreds of people with the same name in there system, the phone number is the only thing the minutes are attached to, it doesn’t effect your credit, and won’t.

  35. Sidecutter says:

    @jwissick: Your point-missing skills are impeccable.

  36. Jeff asks: "WTF could you possibly have been thinking? says:

    The original article said the living sister didn’t know the security information of the dead sister. And so many places would rather base your account security on the name of your favorite pet rather than something tangible these days that even having the SS# and mother’s maiden name is not good enough.

  37. ElenorR says:

    @chouchou: Yes, it is a prepaid phone, but Virgin associates the phone with a very REAL credit card number.

    Trust me, not having my deceased stepsister’s name on something makes it easier to close her account.

  38. ElenorR says:

    @StevieZ83: I am not an expert on Virgin accounts, but in this case, it was a “real” account. The phone’s serial number was associated directly with the account and nothing could be done, changing minute plans, making account changes, etc. without account information.

    The phone was also associated with a real person and her real California ID. It was pay as you go, but not anonymously.

  39. ElenorR says:

    @NotATool: The minutes were used up in July of 2007 and I was letting the account “run out”. I was unaware that any minutes were added until I tried to repurpose the phone.

  40. cnosal says:

    Dear Consumerist -

    We are contacting you with regard to the posting on your site: “Virgin Mobile Can’t Seem to Close Dead Woman’s Account” by Rachel. We apologize for the inconvenience Rachel has experienced. We would be happy to speak with Rachel directly in order to resolve this issue.

    Virgin Mobile USA takes very seriously the responsibility of protecting its customers from the real possibility of fraud and therefore requires a customer to provide their account pin (or v-key) when cancelling or making changes to one’s account. Many requests to close or change accounts seem absolutely legitimate, but are eventually determined to be fraudulent. In the unfortunate event that a customer passes away, our policy is to confirm that we are dealing with a party authorized to act on behalf of the deceased person’s estate before making any changes to the account.

    One of the benefits of having a cell phone plan without an annual contract is that a customer never has a paper bill and therefore, in a situation like this, a family member is not left with a liability. We encourage Rachel to continue to use her sister’s phone as an emergency cell phone until the issue is resolved or the phone account runs out. Again, we apologize for any troubles and inconvenience this has caused Rachel and would like to work with her directly to resolve her remaining issue. Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions.

    Corinne Nosal
    Virgin Mobile USA
    Corinne.nosal@virginmobileusa.com