Cingular: Can't Pay Your Fraudulent $26,000 Bill? File For Bankruptcy.

Wendy Nguyen’s cellphone was stolen shortly before she left on an overseas vacation. When she returned she was shocked to discover she had a $26,000 cell phone bill. She called Cingular to dispute the charges, but even though she was able to prove she was out of the country when the calls were made from San Francisco, Cingular suggested she file for bankruptcy to pay the bill. From Yahoo!:

If you dig through all the fine print in your cell phone contract, you’ll most likely discover a statement that reads something like this: “Should your cell phone be lost or stolen you are responsible for any costs incurred for unauthorized calls made prior to reporting the cell phone missing.”

Unlike a credit card, cellular contracts are not required to limit liability for fraudulent charges. But it’s also important to realize that the extent of your liability as stated in your contract is your provider’s policy — it’s not a law.

The Yahoo! article gives some helpful tips for cellphone security, the most important of which is to call your provider immediately if you phone is lost or stolen. As for Wendy? They dropped the charges —only after she told her story to KPIX-TV in San Francisco. —MEGHANN MARCO

Ten Steps to Cell Phone Security [Yahoo! Finance]