Verizon Doesn't Care That Someone Hijacked Your Account While You Were Serving Overseas

While Barbie was in Greece serving in the US Military, her cellphone account was hijacked by a strange scammer in Texas. (Barbie is not from Texas.) Because her Verizon account is supposed to be on hold, it took her awhile to figure out what was going on with her her supposedly dormant account. Now Verizon Wireless doesn’t believe her case is really fraud, and she’s sent this letter of complaint to the FCC.

Let’s listen in:

I am currently serving in the U.S. Military. After completing boot camp at the end of summer 2007 I received my orders to go to Greece – departing October 23, 2007. I was told by other military personal that I could have my Verizon Wireless cellular phone account put on hold for up to one year, as I would not have any service in Greece. I contacted Verizon who told me that it was not possible to put my account on hold. After talking to my commanding officer, I was told that the Verizon Representative I talked to was incorrect, and that – by law – I should be able to put the account on hold. Since I had already left for Greece in October 2007, my mother contacted Verizon on my behalf to, once again, put a hold on the phone and the account. This was completed in December 2007.

I was still receiving bills from Verizon Wireless after my phone was on hold, but my mother paid those bills figuring they were left over from previous months. I was unable to view my bill as I am in Greece, and I never set up an online account at Verizon’s website. The bills were paid as follows AFTER the account was on hold:
February 9, 2008 for $197.57 via VISA credit card (I have a letter from Verizon confirming the payment.)
March 23, 2008 for $115.00 via Check #275

I also received a letter from Verizon on February 10, 2008 stating that I registered for “My Account” online. My mother is the person who received the letter and assumed I had set this up so I could keep an eye on my account while in Greece. I, however, never set my account up online. The next, and most recent bill sent to me is for the total amount of $779.62 – due April 23, 2008. Seeing that this was a huge amount due for a phone being on hold, and since my mother paid the past 2 bills in full, she contacted me to let me know there must be a problem. She scanned and emailed me a copy of the bill for me to review. I have noticed that now there is another name and phone number attached to my account. The new phone number is 210-[redacted] and the additional name is [redacted]. I never authorized for any additional names or numbers to be added to my account. It also seemed odd that my cell number is a 717 area code (Pennsylvania), and the number recently added to the account is a 210 area code (Texas). I searched the name [redacted] and found that she is a wanted criminal in Denton County Texas. My step father has already contacted the Denton County Police Tip Line.

I called the Verizon Wireless Customer Service line 2 days ago to get this matter resolved. I was put on hold for over 20min only to be told that I would have to contact the Fraud Department at 1-800-521-1841. I called the Fraud Department several times. I was left on hold for a representative for at least 30min each time I called. I finally received little help from a representative at the Fraud Department this morning. The call was placed on April 17, 2008 around 9am.

I explained my situation to the rep. But I was being treated as if I were the criminal. I was never asked to verify any account information. The only information taken from me was the new phone number on my account. 20min after I gave the Rep the unrecognizable number I was finally told that this new name and number was added to the account in August 2007. I was shocked! Then the Rep told me that it is my responsibility to check my account regularly, and that since it has been “almost a year” since the addition that there was suspicion as to why I was now calling. I explained that I am in the military and had orders to go to Greece and that my mother had been taking care of my bills. She did not seem to care. The Rep also told me that the new number associated with my account is a dedicated line for a laptop. This does not make any sense, as the bill clearly states that the number [redacted] is a cellular phone calling plan – with 450 general minutes for $39.99. The current bill is at almost $800 because there were 1865 minutes used (1415min over the plan) as well as text and picture messaging and a Ringback Tone. If the number were used for a laptop, why would it have all this information on the bill? I was very angry at this point because of the way the Rep handled the situation, as well as the demeanor in which she spoke to me. I explained to her that the new number is a Texas area code and that I live on the East Coast. She said since she is in New York I would have to contact the Fraud Department in the South. This is when I decided to write to the FCC, as it seems my situation is going nowhere with Verizon Wireless. Please help.

The rep you talked to seemed like a jerk. Before you do anything else, you may want to launch an EECB (Executive Email Carpet Bomb) on Verizon to let their bigwigs know that you’ve reported them to the FCC. For more information about how to learn to launch an EECB, click here.

If you don’t see any results from escalating your complaint, you might want to think about filing a lawsuit in Verizon in small claims court and/or maybe filing a police report. Since you’re in the military, you have access to some legal help through the armed services. U.S. Armed Forces Legal Assistance, or the Naval Legal Service Office may be able to provide you with legal advice.

Anyone have advice for Barbie?

(Photo:nomad)

Comments

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  1. MPHinPgh says:

    I’m with Verizon, and so far I have to admit that I’ve had very few problems with them, but it’s this sort of crap that pisses me off none-the-less. Why can’t a company with the resources that Verizon has manage to accomplish a simple transaction (put an account on hold) without completely eff-ing it up? And for a member of the armed services to top it off.

    Frickin incredible.

  2. elocanth says:

    I’m with Verizon as well, and I’ve only ever had good customer service from them… that being said, just like every gigantic corporation, they seem to employ their fair share of asshats.

    I agree with Meg, an EECB may produce results, and faster than the FCC likely could. Good luck to you.

  3. MickeyMoo says:

    screw the EECB and small claims – go directly to the press. Like it or not – we are a country at war and local TV LOVE LOVE LOVES filler stories especially if they involve some injustice being done to a member of the armed services. I’d bet that you’d get it resolved the minute someone high up at Verizon sees the story (and likely with a profuse apology)

  4. Darkwish says:

    I think all EECB letters to Verizon should end with the phrase “Can you hear me NOW???”

  5. chaintothread says:

    They never stop working for you. Literally.

  6. DrBologna says:

    Is it just me, or does anyone else find it hilarious that the scammer bought a ringtone? It’s not bad enough that she used $700+ worth of airtime, but she had to customize her scam too? Awesome.

    Nothing like a good soundtrack to go along with criminality. Oh well, live it up now, wanted criminal, you probably can’t have your iPod in jail…

  7. Nighthawke says:

    State PUC and FCC time for this one. Don’t give them a chance to clear things up. They deserve to burn in government hell for refusing to assist in cleaning up fraudulent incidents.

  8. STrRedWolf says:

    I would contact the Texas police again, and ask them to contact Verizon to confirm the report and kill the line. Also, file a local police report and contact the military legal eagles. This I believe is beyond EECB and requires (in the words of Schlock Mercenary) “close air support.”

  9. STrRedWolf says:

    State PUC, Military, and Police. Forget the EECB, you need “close air support” on this one.

    Bonus points for the Schlock Mercenary reference.

  10. Byzantine says:

    She should contact Visa. Maybe they can help since the payments went to her credit card and those payments turn out to be fradulent.

  11. Tristan Smith says:

    One of my co workers had a problem like this. What actually happened was the 3rd party vendor that signed her up for the account was adding additional lines to the account so she could sell those to people who wouldn’t normally qualify for cell phone service. She would have the bills sent directly to her office where she would remove the incriminating pages, pay part of the bill and send out a new invoice for the remainder. She got caught because my coworker called Verizon and changed her address. All of the sudden she was getting $3,000 bills for 5 lines.

  12. picardia says:

    @chaintothread: They never stop working for you because they never START working for you.

  13. jjeeff says:

    How about publishing or calling some of the numbers on the bill to figure out who these people are?

  14. erica.blog says:

    This is at least the second Consumerist story about members of US armed forces trying to put accounts on hold, and Verizon screwing that up in some way. Getting accused of fraud is worse than just losing your old number, though.

  15. Barbarisater says:

    Verizon works as long as you don’t have a problem. Make a call to CS and that is when all hell breaks loose.

  16. ChuckECheese says:

    @jjeeff: Yes, we can start a San Antonio ghetto call-tree! It will probably be a list of used car lots, check-cashing places, drug dealers, and plasma centers.

    (area code 210 is for metro San Antonio)

  17. elf6c says:

    Show Us Your Verizon Face!

    Maybe they should get a Twitter account?

  18. SuperJdynamite says:

    Why is it that the last time something similar happened commenters jumped on ye olde blame-the-victim wagon ([consumerist.com]), but not this time?

  19. larry_y says:

    @SuperJdynamite:
    they don’t want to seem unpatriotic? Well, they could blame the mom…

    What Verizon should be doing is helping her get the criminal arrested.

  20. WHATABOUTIT says:

    it is unfortunate the guy was victim to fraud, HOWEVER, after reading some of the comments on this page it has occurred to me that people are ridiculous! YES, this guy must follow through with the fraud prosecution, again, HOWEVER, why was the mother paying a bill for service SHE knew was supposed to be suspended?She ALSO had a responsibility to HER son with the promise of paying his bills to make sure everything was how he left it the way he left it.The problem with customer service is that people have been brain washed into thinking that it is the company’s responsibility to correct a problem that was the CUSTOMER’S from the beginning. The problem could have been fixed LONG before the bill got that high had the person who was responsible for paying it PAID attention to any changes from the begining.It’s totally understandable that the guy is disgruntled about his treatment–and anyone would be.BUT… there does come a point in time where WE as the customer also have to take responsibility for CUSTOMER service.

  21. CyberSkull says:

    I recommend she call in an air strike on Verizon.

  22. CyberSkull says:

    I recommend that she call in an air strike on Verizon HQ.

  23. CyberSkull says:

    I recommend that she get together with the other members of the armed forces screwed over by Verizon and order an air strike on Verizon HQ.

  24. tracygee says:

    Absolutely outrageous. I know Verizon *used* to be able to put a military account on hold with no problem. I worked there about seven years ago, and all we had to do was ask for a copy of the shipping orders to be faxed or mailed to us. Bingo. No problem. Of course, this was shortly after 9/11 and they were feeling patriotic, I suppose. I guess things have changed.

    Those first reps that didn’t put the account on hold are just as bad as the fraud department that won’t clean up the mess now.

  25. Mr_Burmie says:

    @ChuckECheese: “San Antonio ghetto call-tree” would make an awesome band name!

    Verizon is the black hole of customer service.

  26. Mr_Burmie says:

    @SuperJdynamite: You obviously have never dealt with Verizon.

  27. CyberSkull says:

    Sorry about the multiple posts, I was getting no confirmation.

  28. CyberSkull says:

    @SuperJdynamite: There are probably no Verizon shills posting this time.

  29. kostia says:

    @CyberSkull: That’s okay, it got better each time.