Sprint Insists I Owe Them $800 For Nonexistent Account

Samit isn’t a Sprint customer. He doesn’t have a Sprint phone or service. He doesn’t have a customer number. But somehow he owes Sprint $800 for service that he neither signed up for nor received. See, he had tried to become a customer. After starting the process of setting up Sprint service, someone took down his social security and credit card numbers, then wandered off. Samit received an iPhone that he never asked for, sent it back, and somehow has racked up $800 in phantom phone bills.

Last October, with the release of the iPhone 4S on Sprint, I was excited to switch my service from Verizon. I thought I could save some money as a Sprint customer and, as a shareholder, I thought I could support a company with some room for growth. Unfortunately, the whole endeavor has been a disaster.

First, the Sprint representative for my company never actually placed my order–but instead just wrote my social security number and credit card information on a sheet of paper before taking off for vacation. When that was discovered I was assured that my information would be shredded and the order canceled.

However, a couple of weeks later an iPhone 4S arrived at my door. I promptly returned the unopened device and thought that would be the end of my experience with Sprint. Unfortunately, that was just the start. Over the next 6 months I received notice after notice informing me of a steadily increasing account balance. However, each time I called the customer service line for billing disputes the automated system disconnected the call because I’m not actually a Sprint customer and I don’t have an account number. Eventually the balance (nearly $800) was sent to a collections agency who pestered me relentlessly until I sent them a cease and desist letter. I received a response stating that they will no longer contact me but consider the charge valid.

Sure enough, when I checked my credit report a few weeks later I have an inquiry from Sprint and from the collections agency. I’m in the process of relocating for work and I’m sure this isn’t going to look great when I’m applying for an apartment lease. I called Sprint again tonight and started with the general customer service number. After 30 minutes on the phone with account services the line was mysteriously disconnected and I’m still stuck with an inexplicable $800 bill.

Should I lawyer up and sue a company of which I’m a shareholder?

Shareholder or not, no one should be treated this way by any company. You don’t owe them any money. It’s not like that $800 is going straight toward dividends.

At least it sounds like no one intercepted and is using the phone, because then there would be a phone number and account number in Sprint’s system. Right?

As of February, the Sprint Consumerist Hotline was still operational. The number leads to an executive customer service queue where actual humans will listen to your problems, and perhaps even solve them. You can give them a call at 703-433-4401. 866-561-0035

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  1. TBGBoodler says:

    When Sprint first came on the scene, as a long-distance alternative to AT&T, we signed up. After several months of billing me for calls I didn’t make from a city I’ve never been to, they claimed I owed them about $600+. We settled for a tiny portion of that (in fact, for the amount that I did, in fact, owe them for my calls), I canceled my Sprint service and I thought that was that.

    About five years later, I received a check from Sprint for the amount they had been seeking from me.

    I’ve heard billing horror stories about Sprint for all these years. I don’t think they’ve ever quite figured out how to do it correctly.

    • PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

      Billing issues is the reason I left Sprint years ago (not long after the Nextel merger, which really seemed to screw up the billing system). After a couple times of service being disconnecting for non-payment, followed by my calling Sprint proving I had paid in full, I hit my limit. I gladly paid the $300 in ETFs to not have to deal with them again.

      • StarKillerX says:

        I’m curious, if you paid in full and they cut off your service couldn’t you then cancel without an ETF due to Sprint not providing the agreed upon service?

        I’d think it would have been worth a shot at least.

        • PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

          You’re probably right. That was years ago (before I even heard of Consumerist) and didn’t know better.

          I think I’ve mentioned it here before; I’d pay my bill and a week or two later (on the due date) my service was shut-off. I’d call, speak to a CSR who’d tell me that my account was past-due. I’d give my confirmation number from my payment and the CSR would verify I had paid, and would then apologize and restore the service.

          After the fourth (I think) time it happened in just over a year, I was pissed off and just said “Cancel my service.” I probably could have gotten the ETF waived, but as I said, I was uninformed back then.

    • newfenoix says:

      Several years ago when I was a street cop, a friend of my daughter broke into our house while we were on vacation. I had a $758.45 phone bill. I had a 900 block on my line but what this kid had done was call sex lines in the Caribbean. I called SW Bell and they took those charges off of the bill. This kids was on probation and I went to his probation officer and told him the situation. He admitted to what he did. In court, the judge served Sprint with a court order explaining the situation and stating that I was not responsible for the charges. About a month later, I received a call from Sprint and they demanded that I pay the charges. I asked if they had received the notification from the circuit court that I was not responsible for the bill. The person that was speaking to me said that the court order didn’t matter, in their eyes I OWED the bill and they did not care what the court said. I asked for the person’s name and when he asked why I informed him that I was notifying the court that he and his company felt that court orders from the Garland County Circuit Court of Arkansas did not pertain to them. He hung up. About two hours later, I received a call from their legal office telling me that I would not hear from them again.

    • MeowMaximus says:

      First mistake: buying an I-Phony

  2. shufflemoomin says:

    It’s perfectly simple: If they can’t show a copy of a service agreement with your signature on it, there’s nothing more to do. Take them to court and get everything you can out of them.

    • Audiyoda28 says:

      Not if the order was placed through the company the OP works for. You either contact a specific b2b rep, call a number setup by Sprint for your company, or work with someone in the company that places bulk orders. Commercial accounts are handled a little differently that individual accounts.

  3. raitch says:

    But… you got bills, you called their automated line that repeatedly hung up on you- did you really think the bill was just going to magically disappear? Yes, they were in the wrong for billing you in the first place, but you DID have warning before being sent into collections.

    • Lyn Torden says:

      And he tried to communicate with them when he did get those bills, and they refused to do so.

    • JennQPublic says:

      But… But he’s a shareholder!

      (Is anyone else confused by the relevance of this?)

  4. scoutermac says:

    If you are a sprint shareholder.. dump those stock now. Analyst are expecting Sprint to file bankruptcy within the next four years.

    By the way I am a Sprint customer for over 10 years and the last year alone has been so bad that when my contract is up I am switching to Verizon.

  5. scoutermac says:

    So.. you received a bill without an account number or phone number?

    • apasserby says:

      I wondered about that as well.

    • StarKillerX says:

      That was my first question as well since without an account number how exactly would Sprint be tracking and sending your bills as that is all handled by account number.

  6. scoutermac says:

    I am also thinking this is a good time to use the dan@sprint.com email address to resolve this issue. This will link you to executive customer service.

    • ZachPA says:

      Unfortunately, dan@sprint.com seems to be about as worthless as their tier 1 customer support. Of the several times I’ve emailed dan@sprint.com, none of those times actually resulted in positive outcomes. Typically, a representative tried to call me at the most inopportune times and was then unavailable for me to speak with when I returned the calls. When I returned calls, I stated specifically when I was available, and invariably, the rep called either before or after those periods. I gave up.

      When my Sprint contract runs out (or when they terminate me for too much roaming data because their service sucks that bad!), I am heading elsewhere, probably a full-retail Galaxy Note on the Straight Talk $45 unlimited plan (runs on AT&T 3G).

  7. Topher says:

    Registered just to comment. I had a similar experience with sprint. I had them for multiple years, all the way back into the Nextel generation. As the years have gone by, their customer service has declined steadily, and compared to Verizon coverage — sprint coverage hasn’t changed too much. its either you’ve got slow 3G EVDO, or slower than molasses 1X “national coverage”. I wanted out. After my contract was over, i switched over to Verizon, who now has full LTE in the basement of my home. you can’t beat that. Anyway, that was in November. THIS WEEK, i got a bill from sprint saying i was many months past due for my past due balance of $10, lol. I called in and apparently they didn’t stop billing for the state tax and sprint fees…… I feel that sprints new policy is “Anything goes”.

  8. Audiyoda28 says:

    Okay, I have a few questions. One, “the Sprint representative for my company never actually placed my order‚Äîbut instead just wrote my social security number and credit card information on a sheet of paper before taking off for vacation.” Is this a Sprint store rep, a b2b Sprint rep, or a rep for the company the OP works for that handles communication needs for his company and arranges discounts/orders from vendors? From the sounds of it I’m inclined to believe it’s someone that works for the OP’s company – or maybe a b2b rep.

    My biggest question would be why would you allow a bill like that to get out of hand? Granted, I’m a Sprint customer, but I’ve called from lines that are not on my account and without entering any account number or any other identifying information have been able to get through to a real person to handle my account. Anyway, if the OP “received notice after notice (commonly referred to as bills), that would have an account number on it as would the collections letter – so while I agree no customer should be treated this way, the OP seems to have done very little to abate this problem but just allowed it to built and built until it was a avalanche of problems.

    • RandomLetters says:

      This. OP should have not just have apparently assumed Spirnt would figure out they had screwed up. If you get a bill that’s not yours you have to dispute it and get it resolved. It won’t go away on its own.

  9. JGB says:

    Living, as I do, in Kansas City, I can tell you that Sprint has two main businesses: Telecommunications and firing people. They have gone through a series of CEOs, paying them enormous sums and then, a year later, paying them even more to go away. The whole is balanced out by firing X number of people. The standard line at their ‘campus’ (and that place is way bigger than they need after all the firings) is to keep everything personal in a box under your desk and be ready to leave with little notice.

    F**k Sprint. They will never see any of my money.

  10. SerenityDan says:

    You should have disputed the debt in writing the first time. By waiting until it was in collection you basically told them, yeah it’s my debt. I understand you could not get them on the phone but disputes need to be done by writing anyway. At the very least when it went to collections you should have disputed it not sent a “cease and desist letter.”

    • Lyn Torden says:

      They don’t teach stuff like this in school. They really should, but they don’t, yet.

  11. sprybuzzard says:

    You really need to be persistent now that it’s affecting your credit score (really should have been persistent when you got the first bill but let that be a lesson for the future) call and talk to actual people even if you’re disconnected, write down the day, time, and the representative. Call the number given here. You can also at the very least flag and dispute the inquiries on your credit reports. I also wonder if you have a receipt for when you sent the phone back, it might help your case that you returned the phone.

  12. Conformist138 says:

    When a phone system directs you for an account number you don’t have, start mashing either 0 or # and it’ll get the hint.

    Or send an email. Or go into a Sprint store in person. Or find SOMEONE to speak to.

    “I tried to call but gave up at the first obstacle” isn’t really an excuse. Sprint doesn’t get off the hook since they’re clearly failing at every opportunity, but sadly we have to be prepared for companies being inept and protect ourselves from their crap.

  13. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    When you get a written notice from a collection agency you MUST respond in writing that you dispute the debt within 30 days, preferably via certified mail. State what your rights and that any collection activity including any negative reporting on the debt would be a violation of the FDCPA. In most cases you will never hear from them again, and they won’t report to the reporting agencies.

    If you miss that 30 day window you will have an uphill battle. Contact them again demanding they remove the negative reporting. If they refuse, sue.

    • Lyn Torden says:

      This just isn’t so. The only thing different about the first 30 days is if your demand validation in the first 30 days they have to stop collecting until they send validation. After the first 30 days, you can still ask for validation, but then they don’t have to respond.

      What they are required to send you for validation is virtually worthless. Basically, they have to identify the original creditor, the account number, and original amount. It is merely enough to show that they looked it up in their computer. “Yup, it’s in the computer”.

      Disputing a debt is different than asking for validation. You can dispute the debt at any time. But all that does is requires that they note on your credit file (report) that the account is in dispute. If they fail to within 60 days (not a law, just generally how much time courts have allowed) then it is a violation. But they can continue to collect the debt.

      There is nothing that can force the debt to go away except winning a lawsuit or bankruptcy.

  14. neilb says:

    Rule 1 of Sprint: Never NEVER underestimate the incompetence and stupidity of Sprint.

    Here is what you do: Explain the situation in 15 seconds to the first person who answers the phone: “I have an $800 debt on my credit report due to identity theft, can you take care of this or should I speak to someone else?”
    Do this 4 times (once for each person you get transferred to) and you will get someone on the phone who will help you. You might have to call them back or they might have to call you back, but you will be able to get their direct number and they will treat you like you are a human being. Best I can tell, maybe 3 Sprint employees (out of the thousands who answer the phones) have the authority/willingness to help customers. Your depressing adventure is to find that person.

    • nishioka says:

      I’d rather go to a Sprint store than play phone tag with people who may or may not go on vacation at any moment. Never underestimate the power of being in someone’s face – there’s no “disconnect” button for them to use!

      • neilb says:

        Unfortunately, I have ended up in Sprint stores on hold with Sprint corporate! Why? Because even the store managers don’t have authorization to change much about your account.
        Doing the phone game in a store can be less convenient than doing it at home, where you can do other stuff while listening to their stupid hold music and ads.

    • toodarnloud says:

      This sounds like it will work, since that was in effect what someone did.

  15. fsnuffer says:

    I filed a complaint against AT&T with my Attorney Generals office and was successful

  16. BlkSwanPres says:

    Why not contact the rep at his company that placed the order?

  17. cspschofield says:

    Some years back I was dealing with an extensive family emergency that took all my stamina. During this crisis I developed the habit of surfacing for air periodically, at which times I would go through the piled up mail, and throw money at the regular bills way in excess of what was owed so that I wouldn’t have to deal with them for a while. This worked fine, except for SprintSprint’s billing system didn’t look at how long you had owed them money, it looked at how long at had been since they had received a payment. So, six months go by, the money I threw at Sprint gets used up, I owe them $.43, and my service gets cut off because I last paid them six months ago. It took entirely too long to get the idiot I reached by phone to understand that while I hadn’t paid the bill for six months, I had only owed them money for less than a day.

    And, yes, I know that what I was doing wasn’t even remotely sound financial practice. There were extenuating circumstances, and the details would only depress you.

  18. newfenoix says:

    Sprint Executive Customer Service is an absolute joke!!!! And a very bad one at that.

    • scoutermac says:

      Your right. They are just slightly more helpful than the normal customer service.

      • newfenoix says:

        It took going to the state AG office to get my situation taking care of when I canceled my wireless service in 2007.

  19. limbodog says:

    The nice thing is, because you’re not a customer, you didn’t sign a contract agreeing to automatically yield any disputes to them.

    So you can take them to small claims and probably win + damages.

  20. FacebookAppMaker says:

    You most likely got the Halifax, Nova Scotia call centre (Where I’m located, and I work in the same building with Sprint, but different projects). They are full of completely incompetent people who really have no clue what they are doing.

    Though, to be fair, Teletech (The third party company that handles calls for sprint) hires those that don’t display even a mediocre level of intelligence, then expect them to understand and memorize 7 different systems, 3 of which are just for notations (Yes, apparently you have to document the call 3 times, in 3 different formats).

    So that’s most likely why you can’t get someone that cares. They are all fresh out of high school, and the vast majority of those feel too entitled to deal with customers.

  21. Kestris says:

    Knock on wood, I’ve never had any issues with my Sprint service. Of course, it’s not my account, but is my Sister In Law’s, so all I really have to do is make sure my share of the contract is paid monthly and they have to do the rest.

  22. HammRadio says:

    I’m still wondering how the company representative was able to magically get an iphone sent to the OP’s house by just writing his name and social on a piece of paper?

    When the OP returned the phone. Did he follow Sprint’s instructions for returning the phone or did he just Return to Sender and hope for the best?

    If he received bill after bill how could he NOT have an account number??? Why didn’t he contact his company’s sprint representative to look into it?

  23. karlmarx says:

    I would be calling the Sprint Fraud Department instead of talking to billing.

    I have never had a problem with Sprint. I don’t understand sometimes why things are so difficult for some people.

  24. do-it-myself says:

    Why must Sprint go through periods of SUCK and periods or GREATNESS every 5 years? I used to get dropped called all the time, then like magic didn’t have them for years. I purchased my first smartphone and 3G sucks and 4G availability is rare. Now they are trying to move to 4G LTE? Fix what you have first before adding more shit to the pile. Even dropped calls have returned like gangbusters.

    Having 3G/4G with Sprint is like having a Ferrari on the Autobahn with Cinder Blocks for Wheels. This is how/why they can tout “UNLIMITED” data.