Teen Runs Up $22,000 Verizon Bill

After a man added his 13-year old son to his Verizon plan, his cellphone bill rocketed to nearly $22,000.

In a month’s time, the boy downloaded almost 1.4 million kilobytes of data. The family didn’t have a data plan, so Verizon charged them by the megabyte. After initial reports about the story broke, Verizon agreed to refund the entire bill, which is pretty nice because usually they’ll just split the difference. The father said he would be removing his son from his cellphone plan.

Like credit card fraud, there should be some kind of fail-safes for this kind of incident. For instance, if the bill is over 500% more than last months, they call you up and say, “are you sure you wanna do that?”

Teen runs up cell phone bill of nearly $22,000 [AP] (Thanks to GitEmSteveDave!)

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  1. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    There’s no fail-safe if your cell phone is stolen, either.

    • dohtem says:

      No, but the onus is on you to report the phone stolen as soon as possible.

      • Corporate_guy says:

        As soon as possible, but their stance is you are responsible for all charges before you report it.

        And when an iphone unlimited plan is 30 bucks, 22k for per kilobyte cannot make any sense.

  2. karmaghost says:

    Fail Safe Example: Don’t put your 13 year old kid on your cellphone plan.

    That aside, I do agree that there need to be fail-safes involved much like credit card bills where if there is unusual spending, the account is put on hold and the customer is contacted.

    • subtlefrog says:

      That’s not entirely fair since virtually every 13-year-old has a cell phone these days. It would be better to have a talk about what is and isn’t responsible, and then either get a data plan or block services (if allowable).

      • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

        When I went in to the Verizon store about 6 months ago, they showed me all kinds of control features available for parents. We’d been thinking about adding our 15-year old to our plan and giving him a phone for his b-day; I remember being impressed that they had so many control options in place. The online utility they demoed for me had slider bars, as I recall, so that parents could control minute and data usage. I wonder why this customer didn’t have that installed before activating his teen’s line – given my talkative teen, I know I would’ve done it way before handing over the handset. Maybe Verizon didn’t let him know about it or something. /shrug

        • ktetch says:

          Yeah, ditto. My wife’s been trying to use that to convince me to add our eldest (13) to our family plan. Wife works an hour away, I’m (slowly) rebuilding the engine in my car, and we live in a rural county in Georgia, and the school’s 10 miles away. With all the band things, her having a phone might be useful, but she has problems with self control.

          My sister got a cellphone when she was 17 (in the UK) ran up a 1100GBP (about $1700 at the time) bill her first month.

      • Preyfar says:

        On my way to work one day, there were a bunch of kids out by the bus stop of my apartment complex… couldn’t be more than 7 or 8, and they *all* had phones. Out there, texting and playing games on their phones while waiting for the bus.

      • Toffeemama is looking for a few good Otters says:

        Or you could get your kid a pay-as-you-go phone, and give him a monthly “allowance” towards it. At least the parents could sit down with the kid and show him the plan, and exactly how much everything costs.

        I want to be mean, and say that the parents should have known better than to just add a kid to the plan, and give them a phone to play with. It sounds to me like there weren’t really rules for the kid, and he downloaded all this stuff out of ignorance.

      • magstheaxe says:

        What I don’t understand is, why don’t parents simply give their kid a pay-as-you-go phone (like Tracfone or what-have-you)?

        One of my friends gave her kid a Motorola Tracfone, one that came with ‘Net access, a camera, texting, and other stuff. It also came with a double-minutes-for-life feature, so that this kid got his minutes automatically doubled at no extra charge when he added them. At the time, the phone cost around $100.00. My friend and her husband also went ahead and loaded it up with a few hours worth of minutes.

        The kicker was this: the kid was told, “We’re buying you this great phone, but you’re responsible for buying the minutes” out of his allowance and odd-job money (yard work he did for neighbors, that sort of thing). The kid learned very quickly to be responsible for his cell phone “bill” after the first month, when he had to borrow money from his parents for more minutes.

        After a couple of years of this demonstrated responsibility, THEN my friend and her husband added the kid to their family plan. They had no probems whatsoever.

        • joshua70448 says:

          This is exactly how I got my first cell phone a few years back. It was a prepaid TracFone for which I bought minutes myself. Although, even now that I’ve got my own cell phone plan I’m not using any data features, so maybe I’m a fluke ;-)

    • Naame says:

      Adults make these mistakes all of the time too. Many have no idea how much data they go through.

    • isashach says:

      When I got my first internet connected phone a few years ago, I downloaded nearly 100 Mb worth of things, costing the equivalent of 1200$. After several phone calls and months, all of our phones (including the house phone) got disconnected. Nearly 6 months later, my dad finally managed to call someone that understood him and removed most of the charges off me. That was a lesson well learnt – nearly 6 months with no phone!

      But whatever, now I have an iPhone with 1 Gb of data per month, and unlimited texts and calls, so I’m safe!

    • fxsoap says:

      Exactly. Children shouldn’t be allowed cell phones. 18 or under, never.

      • Stephen Colon says:

        I fit in the “under 18″ category, but me not having a cell-phone–dare I say a smartphone even–would be utterly ridiculous. I’d love to see any of the critics of responsible teenager cell phones try living my life minus a cell phone. I work with schools all throughout CA to build up diversity and positive social leadership in their student bodies. I take plane/train/taxi trips sometimes three or even four times per week, and I am constantly in email and telephone communication with school and other officials, and on top of that I am a part of my own school’s student government, three different sports and AP/Honors classes, and on top of that I hold a job. I would be lost without my phone; it keeps me organized and safe as I am on the road. Hasty generalizations about minors are tough to make because children under 18 can vary widely in maturity.

    • PermanentStar says:

      There are companies out there who do this – contact you when the usage goes over a certain amount, and if there is no response from that, they cut the phone off, which of course causes the customer to contact the company to see why the hell their phone was turned off.

      What I feel though, is that for Verizon, it is more cost effective to just let people run up the bill: No need for monitoring programs/software, or the programs/people needed to get the messages out and shut off phones, no need to produce excess calls or retail traffic with people wondering why they got a message or why their phone is turned off, and overages are a good source of revenue.

    • PermanentStar says:

      Damn, my reply seems to have been eaten.

      There are cell phone companies out there who will contact you when your usage is higher than normal, and who will shut off the phone/s once it goes above a certain point, either of which should cause you to contact the company to figure out what is going on…

      It is probably just more cost effective for Verizon to let people accumulate overages: There would be no need for account monitoring programs, no need for people/programs to contact the customer or shut off phones flagged for abnormal use, no people calling in or creating non-sales retail traffic wanting to know what the contact was about or why the phone was off…not to mention there is often more profit in allowing a customer to have an overage than for them to have the proper package to cover it.

  3. tbax929 says:

    I think it’s nice of Verizon to agree to refund the entire bill. They certainly didn’t have to. While it’d be great if there were a fail-safe in place, Verizon shouldn’t be responsible for monitoring the usage on your phone. My niece has a phone on my plan, and when I first gave it to her, I’d go online daily to see what her usage was. I also locked out the data features (before we got unlimited data) and put a password on it. Furthermore, I told her what she could and couldn’t do and that if she used it excessively, I’d immediately take it away. Once I became comfortable that she was using the phone “properly”, I stopped monitoring it daily, but I still check it from time to time.

    • Overheal says:

      If they didnt, the FCC would have been in their Lobby faster than you can say Audit.

      • sleze69 says:

        Why? It sounds like a good case of personal responsibility. The kid screwed up – BIG TIME. They were lucky that Verizon was nice in this case.

        • kujospam says:

          Because when you don’t have a data plan, you shouldn’t be able to use data. That’s simple. Their product failed and accessed data on a non data plan. Of course you can blame it the other way around, but who made the phone, and who sold the service?

    • QuantumRiff says:

      Verizon conveniently has no way of specifying that you don’t want any additional charges to your bill. Some other cell phone companies, you can say that, then things like 900 numbers don’t work, data doesn’t work, etc.. Especially on family plans.

      • tbax929 says:

        Wow. That really sucks. I can do that with Sprint, and from everything I’ve been told, Sprint is far inferior to Verizon. That should definitely be something you can do. However, I’m sure you can go on your Verizon account and monitor usage, can’t you? This wouldn’t have become a $22,000 problem if the father had kept closer tabs on the son’s usage.

        • Firethorn says:

          I wonder if the father thought to sit down with his son and let him know the acceptable usage?

          Kinda like the family that gave their daughter a phone without the unlimited texting plan and she sent something like 100k in a month?

          Many of the older generation are still on a ‘check monthly’ schedule. They just don’t think to check.

          • Kitamura says:

            I dunno, some things you don’t think to do until after the fact because you never considered the possibility mainly because it’s not something you’d do yourself.

        • Coelacanth says:

          Sprint is far inferior to Verizon… how? While I’m a bit disappointed with their phone selection (then again, they’re one of the premier providers of Blackberries), I’ve had nothing but stellar service and decent customer support.

          AT&T is the new failure in the market.

  4. edicius is an acquired taste says:

    Good on Verizon for refunding the entire bill. Otherwise, we could be reading a story of “Man acquitted of killing idiot 13-year old son for $22K Verizon bill, justifiable homicide”.

  5. AstroPig7 says:

    How does someone download that much data? Granted, that’s only 1.36 GB, which is nothing for a laptop or a desktop computer, but for a phone that’s ridiculous. I can only guess that the kid was downloading movies, but if he had a phone capable of viewing them, then someone wasn’t paying attention when they added him to their plan. (I’m not blaming the OP, I’m just trying to figure out how this happened.)

    • henrygates3 says:

      A 13 year old is perfectly capable of surfing content heavy websites pretty much 24/7 with a few hours sprinkled in for sleep. Eating is easily accomplished with one hand, leaving the other free for texting LOL, URLY!, R U 4 REL? several times per minute.

      • AstroPig7 says:

        Since this was November, you have to account for school hours (well, at least some of them), which makes this even more ridiculous.

        • sam says:

          I usually use a little less than 2GB a month with my iPhone. I do not tether, but I am a freshman in college so maybe that is a better explanation.

    • tonberryqueen says:

      If he was checking MySpace and Facebook every few minutes, I imagine that he could get there pretty quickly. Throw in some YouTube videos, and you’re definitely there.

    • pot_roast says:

      Probably a bunch of ringtones. Even with my iPhone, I barely hit 1.5gb/mo. My wife uses about 800mb/mo and she is on Facebook constantly and loves downloading apps.

    • d0x360 says:

      I can do that quite easily. Im using a G1 (android phone) aside from the constantly syncing email, rss feeds, twitter and facebook I also download a ton of apps, upload alot of pictures and flickr as well as email pictures to friends. I send apps to people, I watch and upload youtube videos, i download files off the net too. 1.5 gigs of data is not alot, not even for a cell phone these days.

      Now as for this story. Cell phone companies need to charge up to the data plan price when you use data. once you hit that price of a data plan they should charge you the $30 or whatever it is and call it a day. That being said there is also no sane reason they are charging $2 per megabyte nor should they be rounding up to the megabyte for each data session.

      When I was on verizon I used to check my gmail via the browser. It was about 150 kb of data total to load gmail, login and read an email or two. They would round that 150kb up to a megabyte and every time you close and open the browser you are charged for another megabyte even if you dont come close to using one. Its insanity and must be stopped. There is no way 1mb of bandwidth is worth $2. If anything it probably cost verizon a fraction of a cent to transfer that data over the cell network.

  6. Bhockzer says:

    I’m a big proponent of the idea that if you don’t have a data plan your phone shouldn’t even be able to access any kind of internet what-so-ever. Make it a feature that manually has to be activated at the store by the primary on the account. This way kids can’t go in and get them activated without their parents there.

    • tbax929 says:

      But then they can’t rack up these huge bills and expect parents to pay them! I don’t know if it can be turned off on all phones, but every phone I had at least had the ability to password-protect the feature.

      • henrygates3 says:

        I’ve never had a phone that had a password protect feature except to lock out the entire phone. And the manuals never say anything about such a thing. I had to use Google just to figure out how to change the BIG CENTER button from loading up the browser every time it was accidentally pushed (conveniently located next to other essential buttons).

        • tbax929 says:

          That’s crazy. Every phone I’ve had (before I had unlimited data) allowed me to require a password to use data. I assumed it was a standard option on phones.

          • jamar0303 says:

            I think that’s odd too. Where I get my phones from it’s usually not an option to lock out data on the “adult” phones. There are “kid phones” where you can micro-manage things like hours when certain numbers are allowed to be called, who can be texted, data lock, etc.

  7. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Theoretically, Verizon can put a block on a particular phone to prevent it from accessing data – but who wants to try it after they ask Verizon to do it?

    People are going to go on and on about how kids shouldn’t have cell phones – kids probably shouldn’t have bicycles either because they might try to jump a gorge, and they shouldn’t have magnifying glasses because they’ll burn some ants… cell phones are tools, so it’s up to the kids to show some kind of responsibility. I can think of numerous reasons in which a kid should have a cell phone. Giving one to a kid full-time is probably a bad idea, but if your kid is going on some field trip that isn’t local, it would be a good idea to equip him or her with a way to contact you in a hurry.

    And I would definitely give a kid a cell phone if he or she had to fly alone.

    • fs2k2isfun says:

      I fail to see why your kid needs to be in touch with you all the time. If they are on a school trip, one of the adults will have a phone, and if its a true emergency, like a car crash, there is a good chance your kid wouldn’t be able to call you anyway.

      I don’t have kids, but I don’t foresee giving my kids phones until they can drive.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I see it from a different perspective. What if you need to get ahold of your kid? It would certainly be more convenient to just give your kid a pre-paid phone and if you had an emergency on your end, you could tell your child that so-and-so is picking him or her up after school because your mother slipped on some ice and broke her leg.

      • jamar0303 says:

        “If they are on a school trip, one of the adults will have a phone”
        I went on a school trip to Thailand once (and to China twice before that). At least one adult had a cellphone, all right, but none of them activated international roaming (only two out of five chaperoning teachers brought their phones at all; the latter times they left the phone-bringing to the students because int’l roaming wasn’t expensed by the school and they noticed just how expensive it was). The teachers and a couple of other students ended up asking to borrow MY phone to call people when things didn’t quite go as they should (no, I didn’t ask them to pay, that would be rude of me, not to mention I had and still have a Chinese SIM card that offered rates of some US$.30/min in most of Asia and was only $.015/min in its home country, so it wasn’t really any heavy burden on me).

        Lesson: Tempting fate is bad. Be Prepared. Also, some schools need to equip their teachers better.

      • jesusofcool says:

        Out of necessity, my parents gave me a cell phone for Christmas around the beginning of high school, right when cell phones were becoming mainstream for more than just businesspeople. The reason? Both my parents worked and took care of my siblings but I did a lot of extra curricular activities (partly at my parents insistence). I was too young to drive, so my parents/grandparents still chauffeured me around. As cell phones became popular, they took away the public phones at school, the baseball field etc. Unless I could find someone with a cell phone I could bum, it was hard to find a way to let my parents know where and when to pick me up, especially if practice got changed or whatever. More than once I was stranded so my parents caved because it was easier on everyone.
        Yeah, tracfones are best for younger children because they can restrict kids from using data, texting but I do think it’s necessary for kids, especially really active ones, to have access to a phone.

    • tbax929 says:

      I wouldn’t say all kids shouldn’t have cell phones. I’d say some kids shouldn’t have cell phones. Some kids will run up a bill, and some will use them as intended. I’ve learned from having so many nieces and nephews that the level of responsibility they have varies widely from kid to kid.

    • smcorr says:

      The difference between kids having cell phones and magnifying glasses or bicycles is that no kid ever racked up a $22,000 bill using their bike or a magnifying glass. I believe a cell phone is a privelege that has to earned. The way to earn it in my book is with a job so the kid can pay their own bill.

    • tonberryqueen says:

      I’m surprised that more people don’t just give their kids pre-paid phones.

      All a kid really needs to do is be able to make and receive phone calls, so they can coordinate rides or have the phone for emergencies and check-ins. If I had a kid, and they wanted a phone with a texting and data plan, then their allowance or doing some extra chores would have to go to that.

      • magstheaxe says:

        Agreed. Heck, my first cell phone was pre-paid, and I still have one as a back-up phone. They are a great option, and some of the phones available are really nice.

      • mythago says:

        Pre-paid phones can be very expensive compared to simply adding another line to your family plan.

  8. KathleemB says:

    Twenty two grand? What the hell was this kid downloading?

    /me smacks self. Thirteen year old boy with relatively private internet access… Yeah, I know what he was downloading.

    Kids today. When I was his age we had to WORK for our pictures of nekkid people! Plus, we totally walked three miles to to and from school. Uphill both ways. In the snow. Year round snow.

    • Red_Flag says:

      And we were grateful for it! Now get off my lawn, whippersnappers!

      … grumble grumble … kids today … grumble grumble …

    • Hooray4Zoidberg says:

      I once spent 2 and a half days downloading a 1 minute pron clip on my 28K modem, you don’t call that work? In that time I could have probably swiped hours of porn VHS tapes from my friends dad.

  9. solareclipse2 says:

    When I had Verizon and I also had a smart phone with them, I decided I didn’t need data access because the phone my company provided me had unlimited data. The first thing I did was call them and I removed my data plan, then I requested all data access be blocked on that line. The VZ rep asked me twice if I was sure that I wanted that as I would not be able to check e-mail or get weather,etc. I agreed and never got a charge other than text messaging.

    My mother in law has my 17 yr old brother in law on her ATT plan, she has data access disabled on his smart phone. He’s been pissing and moaning for an iPhone, she told him he can’t have one until he can pony up for the $30 dollar data plan.

    • elangomatt says:

      No offence, but what is the point of shelling out for even the subsidized prices for a smartphone if you don’t pay for any data access? Is it a status symbol or something so you can say “oh, let me call you back on my blackberry”? I can understand the teenager having the data access cut off for the reasons in this article, but data is kindof critical for a smartphone in my book. You may as well have just gotten a free phone on contract with a camera and bluetooth since you don’t use data.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        You misunderstand. Solareclipse2 ended up with two smartphones, one he/she already had personally, and one that the company provided. Since the company was paying for unlimited data on the company phone, there was no point for he/she to pay for a data package with the personal phone, so he/she had it canceled and blocked on the personal phone.

        • korybing says:

          I think elangomatt was talking about the 17 year old brother-in-law with an iPhone but no data plan. I, too, think it’s weird to shell out to get him an iPhone if there’s not gonna be a data plan. I understand not giving a teen a data plan (again, for reasons listed in this article), but you could get a much cheaper phone if you’re just gonna use it to make calls and not use the internet.

    • magstheaxe says:

      Good for your mother-in-law.

  10. henrygates3 says:

    Block data. I’d say it was as simple as that, but the provider make it as difficult as possible.

    • Coelacanth says:

      …or buy a data plan.

      • henrygates3 says:

        Right, because if I don’t want to use something – intentionally or accidentally – the solution is to go ahead and buy it anyway.

        • jamar0303 says:

          Well, if the provider won’t let you block it, it’s cheaper than paying the per-KB rate. Or get your kid a Japanese phone. Those are made so that data doesn’t work without Japanese service.

      • ShadowFalls says:

        Maybe so, but I feel this kind of falls into the court of the phone companies. If you hit a certain amount of data use that reaches the cost of the unlimited data package, for that month, your data plan should be upgraded to the unlimited data package and that month only. This solution alone would basically remove these consistent stories. The person here is still responsible for some usage, doing this method would be a compromise for both sides.

  11. korybing says:

    I can’t make a direct correlation since when I was 13 nobody I knew even had a cell phone, but when I was around that age we had dial-up internet and I was absolutely addicted to it. My parents had a strict “If you are on the internet more than X amount of time and run up the phone bill you get to pay the phone bill” and they threatened me with death if I went over my limit. It was a pretty effective policy. Did the parents just not tell the kid “hey we have no data plan, so if you are surfing the internet you are going to an orphanage?”

    I don’t want that to sound like I’m blaming the OP (there really should be a way to render the phone useless if it goes over a certain amount, or if you don’t have a data plan make it an option where you can’t even go online, etc), but honestly kid, how do you rack up that kinda bill without thinking that your folks will kill you?

    • tbax929 says:

      I don’t think people kill their kids anymore. When I was a kid, your parents would kill you for something like this. They figured they could just make another one if they wanted to. It’s the same reason we bounced around in the far back of the station wagon with no seat belts while dad smoked with the windows up. It’s also why we never had helmets for our bikes.

      • korybing says:

        Sigh, thems were the good ol’ days, I tell you whut. Kids just don’t got the fear o’ God in them anymore, think they can do dang-all anything without no dadgum consequences.

    • magstheaxe says:

      There is a way to way to render the phone useless if it goes over a certain amount: you used a pre-paid phone. Once you run out of minutes, you can’t do anything other than make a 911 call until you buy more minutes for it.

    • calquist says:

      When we first got AOL, I was allowed 1 hour a week. If I wanted more than that I had to pay my mom $3.65/hour, which is what AOL was charging us.

    • SacraBos says:

      Boy I’m dating myself, but when I was 13 there was no internet. No cell phones. No home computers. Some phones still had rotary dial, and Ma Bell was still in one piece. You actually had to call people and hope they were home, since there was no voice mail and few people even had answering machines.

      But daily communication never came with the risk of a sudden $22,000 bill. There was no magic “minute” limit that would cause all your calls to your friends to be charge $1/minute – except for nights and weekends. The most you had to worry about was long distance charges, but that’s when we inscribed special square paper “stationary” using such barbaric utensils called “pencils”.

      Many technological advances have made life easier and information more available, but it’s obvious that the marketing, sales, and pricing of all this has gone completely insane. No other industry has such bizarre pricing schedules resulting in $22,000 billed for what they normally offer for only $30.

  12. The_Fuzz_53 says:

    1.4 GB isn’t that hard to download in a month. Hell, I’m download that much just this morning getting last nights episode of Dexter.

    If you don’t have a data plan, then the phone shouldn’t be able to download data, period. This is such a sleazy move by the phone companies. Everybody use to browse around VZW Tones for ring tones, and then without telling anybody, started charging just for looking around there.

  13. Ronin Democrat says:

    man that kid is almost blind and his palms are hairier than a panda’s.

    that’s 40 meg a day, every day for a month.

    get much done at school does he? likely not. can’t wait for his report card.

    • joshuadavis says:

      On my Smartphone some web pages (without graphics and flash and all that stuff) get up to 700KB. I could see one page being 1.5mb easily. If we go by that number that means he’s only viewed 30 pages a day, hardly a compulsive amount.

      • kexline says:

        Last time I was involved in web content creation, we had an informal limit of 40Kb per page and we worked hard to. Those were the days. Now pages are all cluttery and nobody bothers to re-encode their jpegs. Can you imagine how fast web browsing would be if people tried to limit themselves even to 100kb?

        Sigh.

  14. frari489 says:

    1.4 million kilobytes of data = 1.4 Gigabytes? if my math is not screwed up this morning, why didn’t the author of the article use a more understandable number?

    That’s not really that much when compared to computer internet usage. Maybe he was streaming radio or watching movies.

    • pop top says:

      People write “over a million and a half kilobytes” to SHOCK and AMAZE readers. If you wrote “1.5GB”, people would be like, my computer’s HD is way more than that, but most people don’t know the conversion (giga > mega > kilo), so “a million and a half KB” sounds insane and winds people up.

      • B says:

        But you pay for data transfers by the kilobyte, so reporting the total in kilobytes instead of gigabytes is less confusing. Comparing the amount of data transferred on a cell phone plan to the amount of hard drive space on a computer is meaningless.

      • techphets says:

        I think The Consumerist wrote “1.4 million kilobytes of data” because “kilobytes of data” is the exact same unit that Verizon uses on their bills. They could have clarified that 1.4M kB is the same as 1.4GB but I’m sure they realized that the people who didn’t already know that could quickly learn about it in the comments.

  15. joshuadavis says:

    While 1.4 million kilobytes sounds like a lot, its just about 1 gigabyte, which is less than the space on two music CDs. They should just charge the family the $40 it costs to have a 5GB data plan.

  16. valkyrievf2x says:

    That is pretty cool that Verizon refunded the bill. But, the article states it refunded it: does that mean the father already paid it, or they just erased the bill?

    As for the kid, I see a PREPAID phone in his future. He can rack up all he wants and it comes out of his wallet, not his dad’s. Seeing that he is 13, his ability to make money is severely limited, so I can see his dad paying for X amount every month for minutes. But even then, that is cheap than another potential $22K bill….

    • tbax929 says:

      Yeah, the wording threw me off too. I think they just used the wrong word. I can’t imagine that the father paid the bill and then requested a refund.

  17. Mknzybsofh says:

    Geee do you think it would be wiser to add him to a ‘unlimited texting’ plan rather than just removing him altogether? Or does that seem to be just a little bit to easy to do?

    • pop top says:

      He didn’t run up that large of a bill just by texting. It was data usage.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I think it’s more to teach the kid a lesson. If you screw up, we remedy the situation by cutting you off from this privilege entirely, and you don’t even get to negotiate for a better solution in which you still get to keep this privilege.

  18. Adisson says:

    Verizon is really good about this sort of stuff from my experience. When I went to college and ended up going over my texting plan by 100 dollars (new friends, I wasn’t even thinking about the bill), they called me up and was like “so uh, for another 10 bucks we can put you on an unlimited plan, and then you won’t have to pay this ridiculous amount.” I thought it was really stand-up of them to do that.

  19. MDSasquatch says:

    I added my son to my plan about a year ago and he promptly racked up about $60 in texting charges during the 1st month. I called Verizon and had every feature on his phone blocked.

    He moaned and groaned for about 8 months, and I finally relented and added him(15) and his sister(12) to the plan. I was on the phone with Verizon for about 20 minutes and asked very specific questions about what could and could not be done with their phones. In the end, I added unlimited texting to both.

    In my experience, Verizon was very helpful and got my account set up in such a way, that overages are not an issue. Just takes time and the ability to ask the right questions.

    • tbax929 says:

      Exactly. Maybe the father was naive for just giving the kid a phone, but he really should have asked those types of questions before he added his son to his plan.

    • burnedout says:

      Someone earlier mentioned the “I’ll kill you if you go over X dialup minutes.” Why go through Verizon? Why not use this opportunity to teach kids some responsibility and self-restraint?

      I only ask because when I got to college I had friends who couldn’t do laundry, pump gas, or understand that text messages = $. I now teach college kids who can’t manage their lives AT ALL (and have the critical thinking skills of granite rocks). I don’t have kids, so I know I really know nothing, but I feel like this would be a great opportunity to get them to think about the consequences of their actions and be more responsible for themselves. Why pass the buck on to the company?

  20. crashman2600 says:

    Start them out with a prepaid. WIth $50 unlimited Boost and Straight Talk phones there is really no need to get a kid a contract cell phone. Also, because it is pre-paid it is easy to take to privilege away without causing some sort of contract breach.

    • tbax929 says:

      A $50 per month phone from Boost or Cricket would cost more than adding someone to my plan, which I think is only $10 per month (plus $5 for unlimited texting). I think if you’re not sure the kid can be trusted, you block the features you want blocked or don’t give them a phone at all.

  21. Naame says:

    2 thumbs up for Verizon. They did the right thing here.

    • magstheaxe says:

      Seconded.

      • Hooray4Zoidberg says:

        I guess, one has to wonder why in 2009 1.29GB of bandwidth cost $22K in the first place. They also have the means to prevent these things from happening in the first place but it’s well documented that they profit from people accidentally using the internet without a data plan.

    • _hi_ says:

      Are you serious? They did the right thing?

      Quote:
      “Estarija says after the first media reports, Verizon said they would credit his account for the entire amount. “

      So it takes MEDIA REPORTS to get them to “do the right thing”? I don’t think so. They should have done the right thing in the first place. I agree with the post above. It’s 2009 and a terabyte of data shouldn’t even cost $22,000.

  22. Nathan says:

    AT&T has, for at least a year, a program in place that will contact customers if high levels of unbilled usage occurs, so the customer is aware of the issue before a bill comes out. I think the program was recently adjusted to be centered around multiple text alerts starting at around $200 in overages.

  23. burnedout says:

    My phone has a parental control option where you can lock down the parts that you don’t want kids to access. Before we got our data plan I locked up my web browser so that a) I wouldn’t be tempted and b) if the phone was stolen / borrowed I wouldn’t have to worry about excessive charges. I wonder if this guy overlooked some of these features on his phone…

  24. Colonel Jack O'neill says:

    These young kids now days.
    It’s m=not the kids money, so they don’t care.
    13 year olds does not need a cell phone, these kids parents are paying for it not the kids.
    If anything, give them a prepaid, and if they go over those minutes and they want more, they should get a job and buy it with they own money.

  25. heart.shaped.rock says:

    I’m surprised at the parent here who rewarded their kids’ texting addictions by paying for unlimited texting. My kid ran up $400 in out-of-network texts and I immediately blocked texting on her phone. It’s not just the money, it’s “WTF is she NOT doing that she’s supposed to be doing while she’s texting instead?” Then her grades came in and I found out what she wasn’t doing…

  26. LESSTHANKIND says:

    The funny thing about this is that these cellphone companies will fight you to the death over their own billing errors, but are so quick to accept “oops, I goofed!” from people who actually ran up tens of thousands of dollars.

  27. tigress says:

    That’s very nice of Verizon. Good job guys! Stupid kid, kick his ass dad!

  28. guspaz says:

    “1.4 million kilobytes” sounds like a lot, until you convert it into the proper units; 1.3 gigabytes.

    My $30 CAD phone/tethering dataplan comes with 6GB, making 1.3GB a value of $6.50 CAD. They paid $22,000.00.

  29. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I think the true and honest lesson here is: know what your children are doing with their phone. Clearly, the father had no idea his son was going to be using data on the phone, or he would have switched to a data plan.

  30. MaximusMMIV says:

    1.4 million kilobytes? That’s a ton, right? Oh, wait, no it’s not. Verizon is price-gauging. That’s approximately 1.4 gigabytes, or the file size of a single movie downloaded from iTunes.

    Per kilobyte charges are a ridiculous scam. So are per megabyte. It’s their way of forcing us to go with unlimited data plans.

  31. MsFab says:

    Why are parents giving kids cell phones that aren’t pre-paid? Doesn’t Metro PCS or Boost Mobile let you talk/txt/use data just like post-paid plans?

    Everyone knows kids do stupid things, and now apparently parents do as well.

  32. vastrightwing says:

    Yes, my daughter did the same thing on her Sprint phone: 4,100 text messages at .20/ea, the text messaging was $820! I called Sprint and they essentially did the same thing for me. But how could a person text 4,100 text message in 1 month? I guess that’s less than 6 text messages per hour for the whole month. I text about 5 messages per month. Wow.

    • henrygates3 says:

      Remember that most of these texts are irrelevant and short. When I text I do so in full sentences, usually with punctuation and proper grammar. Thus it’s easier for me to call someone to carry on an actual conversation. These kids however have ridiculous conversations non-stop by texting. The majority of the messages are “ok”, “lol”, “l8tr”, etc…that can easily add up.

  33. pot_roast says:

    We have a 13 year old on our cell plan. We were with T-Mobile and now AT&T, and both carriers let you cap usage for the kids. Ours is currently capped at $5/mo in data usage, which he rarely hits. We can also cap his minutes, text messages, and hours of the day that he can use the phone. (T-Mobiles allowed you to block inbound and outbound calls, AT&T’s only lets you block outbound calls. Both have always-allow whitelists)

    Crisis (and huge bill) averted. Verizon Wireless offers a similar service, and hopefully these folks will be using it from now on.

  34. thaJack says:

    They won’t offer a fail safe.. they won’t even tell you most of the information when you purchase a plan from them. My wife and I have 1,400 shared minutes between us. When I added my phone to the plan, I figured since the minutes would be shared the text message plan would be, too… not that I do any texting.

    Anyways, my mother sent me a text and I sent one back to her asking her not to text me anymore (I hate texting).

    So, I end up with a 40 cent charge for the texts. They shouldn’t allow other people to run your bill up just because you have a phone.

    If I got really ticked off at my neighbor, who doesn’t do texting… I could just send him thousands of text messages, right? He has to pay for them.. it is a rip-off.

  35. El_Red says:

    Kids should be put on prepaid service first. And if you cannot control your kid, then you deserve a headache !!! (Verizon did credit them, I hope kid got grounded until 18 )

  36. Trai_Dep says:

    The dad has got to teach his kid about masturbation.
    Keep those busy little hands busy! Free, in the way the gods intended!

  37. FREAKHEAD says:

    First, Kudos to Verizon. I have to fight with them from time to time and this was nice that they did the right thing here. I can see there call center from my office window so I gave them a thumbs up today.

    Second, let’s take a moment to remember being a kid and being handed a piece of technology for the first time. I remember when we got our Nintendo at Christmas and I stayed up all night playing Super Mario Brothers, I couldn’t get enough. He just got a little (ok more than a little) carried away and the parents probably forgot about all features that a phone can do that they do not use. In the end its a happy story, thankfully!

  38. corker says:

    a simply solution. don’t give them a cell phone

  39. Wang_Chung_Tonight says:

    1.5 Gb of data transferred wirelessly for $22,000. I call that rape.

  40. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Why didn’t they just charge him what they would charge a customer with a data plan for the month? If they have a $49.95 plan, then they could have charged him that. $22,000 is of course excessive, and incredibly sleezy.

    And good for Dad for taking the phone away.

  41. brmo says:

    The math is incorrect here. Verizon charges $1.99 for every MB downloaded for those who do not have a data plan. So 1400 times $2 equals $2800, not $22,000. People need to quit their lying for publicity.

  42. he11fire says:

    Sprint has failsafes like that in place in the form of an “Account Spending Limit” usually there is a $150 per line limit; once your bill hits $150 they suspend your service. I’m a big fan of it, and it’s probably why you don’t hear that many stories about Sprint wireless customers with exorbitant bills.

  43. jesseps says:

    There is a fail safe, but the telcom are greedy whores and wont put certain things in place. If they would be kind enough to put my proposal into place this would never happen. Proposal: If you do not have a data plan, what ever data you are trying to access on your phone you can not access it. Only way you can access data is if you have a plan.

    I had to call my cell phone provider to ask them to cut the data coming into my phone, because I saw stuff coming in and I had no plan and yet they told me I wasn’t getting any data. I told them fuck you, block my phone from sending or receiving any data.

  44. atomoverride says:

    in what world is that small amount of “DATA” worth 22k for 1 month?

    • Kerov says:

      Amen. At some points, the courts are going to make this kind of ridiculous pricing scheme unenforceable, because no one in their right mind would ever THINK that three CD’s worth of data should cost $22K to transmit.

      About as ridiculous as the fine print I used as my signature on Usenet bulletin boards: “I will gladly read any unsolicited commercial e-mail you may send me; you will be billed a $500 reviewing fee per e-mail”

  45. jayde_drag0n says:

    look kids are irresponsible.. you should KNOW this. But don’t prevent them from having a phone because of this..prevent them from the ability to abuse it. You get one of the unlimited everything plans like boost mobile, metropcs, virgin mobile.. etc unlimited EVERYTHING.. and cheap.. well cheaper than almost ALL the major brands.. ie verizon $70 for only 400 mins unlimited text and a data plan.. vs $40 for metropcs unlimited EVERYTHING

  46. SkuldChan says:

    They should switch to AT&T – I defy anyone to download that much data on their network (I usually get to 500kB of data before it times out and disconnects me).

  47. Expert says:

    It’s a cute story, but Verizon charges $1.99/MB for data if you have no data plan. 1.4 million KB is 1400 MB so the cost would be $2,786 not $22,000. Looks like another urban legend.

    The fail safe is to turn off data service to the phone, which Verizon will do. The other alternative is to put your kids on something like PagePlus (a prepaid MVNO that uses the Verizon network). They could run the balance to zero, but it would be a small loss (and PagePlus charges $1.20/MB for 3G data if you don’t have one of their plans which included data, which is slightly better than Verizon proper).

  48. larkknot says:

    As I understand it when I read the story, he had requested that data be blocked on the kid’s line when he set it up, to avoid this sort of problem. Also – 1 GB of data should only cost $22k if you’ve put it on a gold plated, diamond encrusted flash drive.

  49. thisistobehelpful says:

    This is why I’m a fan of not letting kids have real cellphones until they have a job. Give the kid a pay as you go and a monthly allowance of minutes. He’ll learn to budget his stuff if he gets a $20-30 max on stuff and runs out two days into the month.

    And yes it’s definitely bullshit that cell companies don’t call you when you get to some ridiculous amount. It’s really not hard to program in something that puts a flag up after a certain amount, especially when there’s probably account history giving what the average minutes/texts/data used is.

  50. Red Cat Linux says:

    Cheers to Verizon for turning a potential disaster into a ‘teaching moment’ for a customer.

    Now if only Dad could have done that for Son before handing him a phone with the safety off…

  51. MyTQuinn says:

    While there are no safeguards in place to prevent someone from running amuck with their data usage, data access can easily be blocked on a phone. I can’t imagine what this kid was downloading, considering his phone didn’t require a data plan in the first place, but he’s the last one I’d blame here. The parent is responsible for the bill, and therefore the parent is responsible for making sure the child understands what is and is not acceptable use. I’m not saying that every parent can be expected to know everything about potential cell phone abuse, but there have been enough stories on this type of thing over the past several years, that parents should at least be aware of the problem and ask what their options are for curbing abuse.

    I also think that the media, when reporting such stories, should do a little digging and provide readers/viewers/listeners with the information they need to keep the same thing from happening to them and/or their children. Neither the original article, nor this Consumerist article did so.

  52. Crutnacker says:

    Simple solution, sign up for AT&T. You’ll never have a connection long enough to use that much data.

  53. coren says:

    After the bill is run up it’s a little late for “are you sure about that”

  54. Thora says:

    I actually can’t really blame the kid this time. I can see how he would’ve just assumed he had a data plan when he found he could access the web on the phone. Just going by my parents’ thought process- most people think that if you don’t have a plan, you can’t get online at all, which is how it SHOULD be, but sadly isn’t. Most people don’t even consider per-kb charges, especially not your average dumb teenager.

    It is perfectly appropriate to give kids their own phone. In this day & age, I would never think of letting my kid out of the house without a way to contact me or call 911.

    Parents- either block data & text altogether, or get unlimited plans for both. Or else stuff like this will continue to happen.

  55. imevilduckie says:

    There is a fail-safe that Verizon offers. Mid-way through your billing cycle, if it looks as if you’re going to go over your allotment of voice, messaging or data, you receive a text message or phone call from VZW notifying you of the overage.

  56. gizmo says:

    I gave my grandchildren Verizon Straight Talk cellphones for christmas and at $45 per month for unlimited usage they can talk until the cows come home!! The ONLY proviso is they Have to phone ME once a week!! It works like a charm.

  57. gizmo says:

    The best fail safe is to go the prepaid route. I gave my grandson a Verizon Straight talk phone for Xmas and for $45pm he had unlimited usage. In return he helps me with chores and I get to see him more often!!