Verizon Cancels Returning Marines' Cellphones, Gives Their Number Away, Charges Them $500

Two Marines, a husband and wife, found Verizon had an unpleasant welcome-home gift waiting for them when they got back from serving in Iraq: canceled cellphones, a $500 bill, and their phone numbers were given to other people. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, when a soldier goes off to war, they’re able to send their deployment letters to their service companies and get their service put on hold. Apparently in the case of Haley Katz and her husband, that letter wasn’t good enough. When they complained a reached a manager, the manager told them it was their fault they owed the money, and then hung up on them. Read their letter as published in Stars and Stripes, inside…

At 3:30 a.m. [recently], my husband and I called Verizon Wireless to reactivate our phones, as we are returning home [from Iraq] soon and wanted to catch the company during its business hours. Upon speaking with a customer service representative, it became apparent that Verizon not only suspended our contracts, it disconnected our phones and gave our numbers away to other customers.

What is truly amazing is that the company took the letters our commanding officers signed regarding our deployment dates, and deemed the letters not worthy of suspending our contracts. It continued to charge us for those months without notifying us and when we did not pay, it disconnected the lines.

Long story short, when we called to reactivate our phones they told us our numbers no longer existed and that we owed them nearly $500!

When we asked to speak to a manager, we were told nothing could be done. When we did actually speak to a manager we were told it was our fault that we owed the money. The manager then proceeded to say “We’re sorry but nothing can be done for you. Goodbye.”

We were hung up on … in Iraq … at 3:30 in the morning. Real professional.

We spoke to another manager who was courteous enough to recredit our accounts and cut all remaining ties with their service. We are no longer with Verizon Wireless.

For all of the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen out there, make sure you are checking up on the status of your accounts. Apparently, a letter from your command stating you are deploying is not enough these days. And aside from seeing servicemembers off at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point (N.C.), I am not sure what else they are looking for.

Marine 2nd Lt. Haley Katz
Camp Fallujah, Iraq

There’s gratitude for ya.

(Thanks to Casey!)

(Photo: nukeit1)


Edit Your Comment

  1. dualityshift says:

    Blame the Marines in 5… 4… 3… 2…

  2. That-Dude says:

    Soldiers and Sailors Act has you covered.

    All you need to do is drop those four words and if they protest, ask to speak to the legal department re: federal compliance issues.


  3. AD8BC says:

    That’s enough.

    Someone publish the EECB address for Verizon. Then lets ALL carpet bomb them.

    It’s the least we can do for these two heroes.

  4. Pylon83 says:

    It sounds like they may not have sent a copy of their deployment orders, as required by the act. Further, I’m not sure, from a cursory reading of it, that cell phone contracts are covered by the SCRA. It speaks to apartment leases and installment contracts (which a cell phone is not), but not to service contracts. Unfortunately, unless they are probably out of luck with regard to their numbers, but a whole-hearted plea to the company will likely result in a resolution.

  5. IrisMR says:

    Verizon is just full of scums.

  6. emt888 says:

    You stay classy Verizon!

  7. Smitherd says:

    That is the lowest of customer service.

    Every customer deserves the best of service, but this is disgusting. These servicemen are fighting for Verizon’s right to be greedy, self-absorbed bastards. And, as repayment for their fighting, these Marines are treated to a $500 bill, disconnected service and an infinitely rude manager at 3:30 am?

    Applause is in order, Verizon. If this story were not so far behind the polls, you would be winning the Worst Company of the Year Award. Congratulations.

  8. BugMeNot2 says:

    It’s their own fault. They should’ve known that Verizon would keep billing them and arrange for payment to be made. Really, just because an act of Congress says the account should have been temporarily suspended, what do they want, Verizon to actually suspend it?

    Good enough for ya, Dualityshift? ;)

  9. exkon says:

    We should stop letting the actions of one person or few people mark an ENTIRE group/community.

    This is really sad that Verizon would be a such an ass to our servicemen/women overseas…

  10. copious28 says:

    Um, last time I checked, that is a LAW…doesnt that mean they could sue? If I was Verizon, I would tread very lightly.

  11. Meat_Shield says:

    Oooooh boy, Verizon stepped in it now….

    Semper Fi, give ’em hell!

  12. valarmorghulis says:

    you know, i didn’t think it possible, but this just bumped virizon past comcast for me as worst company of the year.

  13. opfreak says:

    thats just cold hearted. Verizon for shame. I wonder if they also sent these two to collections and are ruining their credit. Our soliders deserve better, i spit on verizon.

  14. abenton says:

    I am a Verizon customer, and recently had to do go on active duty. Verizon took care of my service correctly. I had to fax in a copy of my orders, tell them the date I wanted service suspended, then they turned it back on for me within 10 minutes of my calling to re-activate.

    Sounds like they got unlucky and talked to a bunch of jerks, but just wanted to let you know Verizon did it correctly for me.

  15. matsayz says:

    Lt Katz,

    When you find your next wireless provider, remember to get your military discount. A few weeks back someone posted as message with ALL the wireless providers discount percentages. I’m currently with att, in my opinion they’re better than what I had with Sprint. To each their own.

    The link to the article

    Welcome home!

    A1C Matthew Wilson
    Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ

  16. That-Dude says:

    @Pylon83: In my experience with the older version of the act, you are correct. Cell phones probably arent covered. (I say this because I accepted what the phone company told me. D’uh) BUT Cingular placed my cell on a suspended status for 5 dollars a month and allowed me to receive voice mail. So, it worked well for me — I would pay 5 bucks a month for that service, even overseas.

    Funny enough, I never needed to show deployment orders. Even when I left my apartment. Granted, I was already in Kuwait when my buddies packed me out, but the complex basically told me to come back safe.

  17. pegr says:

    My experience? All cell phone carriers suck! Verizon, in my opinion, sucks the least. YMMV.

  18. Imakeholesinu says:

    Lt. Katz,

    There was an article posted on this site yesterday that I would recommend you checking out to see if you can launch an EECB on the Verizon CEO to get this all worked out. If there is a law, then Verizon clearly needs to abide by it or face a lawsuit.

  19. AD8BC says:

    I wonder if Verizon Wireless is now going to hire Hanoi Jane and Baghdad Babs Streisand to represent their company in commercials now.

  20. matsayz says:

    @Pylon83: i dont remember if the Act says exactly “cell phones” but i do believe most if not all the major wireless providers provide some sort of “hold service” for military members.

    I know that Sprint/Nextel and att both do. now if they sent in the correct info or not is to be decided. the Lt said they sent in a letter with their Commander’s signature on it, this should suffice. TDY orders are not always required by a company. usually just a letterhead kinda deal anyways. Verizon doesnt need to know all the deployment info anyways, just that “i’ll be gone for abit then im coming back”.

  21. dreamsneverend says:

    Yowzers, bad bad bad bad PR move on Verizon’s part.

  22. Darkwish says:

    @Pylon83: Huh? Did you even read it? They article says that the company (Verizon) took the signed letters before they deployed.

    They need to get the military/government in on this. Maybe send some of the Verizon management over to Iraq for a few months and see what it’s really like.

    Personally, I’d love to see a platoon of Marines show up at Verizon’s HQ in full combat gear demanding an explanation for how horribly they treat their customers, especially their military customers.

  23. That-Dude says:

    @Imakeholesinu: They re-credited their accounts, so I think they are probably “made whole.” However, its a good heads-up to other service members.

  24. Pylon83 says:

    I’m not saying that Verizon is in the right here, I’m simply not saying what I fell they did was illegal. It would seem that the “proper” thing for them to do in this situation would be for them to pursue a similar course to that of Cingular. I think a nominal monthly charge is appropriate to keep the account open, but I don’t believe it should be a “law.”
    What I meant with regard to the “orders” was that from what he said, he simply sent a letter, not a copy of his orders. If verizon requires a copy of the orders, and he sent a letter saying “Bob’s getting deployed” signed by his commander, Verizon was probably right to reject it. I think we need some of the details (regarding that) filled in.

  25. Pylon83 says:

    See my comment to “That-Dude”

  26. That-Dude says:

    @matsayz: good points all around.

  27. Kat@Work says:

    @emt888: LMFAO

  28. OminousG says:


    I’ve been with T-Mobile for 4 years now. I know if my number was suddenly taken away (possibly illegally), a simple credit for fees I didn’t owe to begin with would not make me fill “whole” again.

  29. That-Dude says:

    @Pylon83: I agree with your analysis, my comments were limited to my experience.

  30. That-Dude says:

    @OminousG: well, unless you can show actual damages, it would be hard to argue that you are not in the same position if you owe no additional fees. Now, if your number is something like 1900 WEDUCKU, and you run a chat service, you may have an argument.

    Granted, it sucks, but I don’t know how you can place a price on losing a phone number, and most courts won’t either.

  31. penarestel says:

    @Smitherd: They’re fighting for Verizon’s rights over in Iraq? Really?
    Which rights are those?
    Last I checked Iraq was nowhere close to invading the US and since we aren’t defending our borders from invasion I don’t see how our rights are being infringed upon by anyone other than our own government.

    Not to knock any of our service members. I wholeheartedly support all of them, I just don’t support Bush’s war.

  32. Smitherd says:

    @penarestel: Eh. Good call.

    I agree about the unnecessary status of this war. Personally, I think it’s all a load of crap. I also agree with you that the soldiers deserve every bit of the thanks and appreciation they get. If nothing else, they are just under the command of an incomptetent government, and simply obeying orders, albeit clueless orders. That’s the mark of a good soldier, when they follow the orders of their superiors.

    I suppose the point I was trying to make is that soldiers fight for our freedoms, whether or not this war is relevant to said freedoms. Next time, I’ll try to make my point a little clearer. Thanks for calling me out on clarification.

  33. cmdr.sass says:

    @penarestel: I know it helps you sleep at night, but when Congress authorizes and continues to fund said war, it isn’t just “Bush’s war”.

  34. mac-phisto says:

    so much for that battalion of verizon folks following you around wherever you go.

    i’m generally a pretty civil guy, but even i want to grab a torch & start burning shit every once in awhile.

    i think now qualifies as one of those times.

  35. Parting says:

    @Pylon83: They did send it, read the article before blaming someone.

  36. Parting says:

    @Pylon83: It is illegal. It’s a law. Want to change it? Contact Congress. Until then, company has to respect it, or get fines.

  37. penarestel says:

    @cmdr.sass: You still believe that Congress follows the will of the people, don’t you?

    They follow money, everyone does.
    If everyone had 11 billion dollars* to pay off enough members of Congress then we all know that things would be completely different.

    *11 billion is a completely random number. I don’t actually know how much it would take to pay off 2/3 of Congress

  38. Pylon83 says:

    Can you cite the specific provision of the law that says they must excuse service contracts? I’m saying I don’t think the law says that. I encourage you to prove me wrong. Further, if you’d read my other comments, I’m not disputing whether or not they sent ANYTHING, I’m disputing whether or not they sent what was actually required. Perhaps you should follow your own advice and read before commenting.

  39. Smitherd says:

    @cmdr.sass: Yes and no. Bush can start a war, and for 60 days it can continue; after this time, Congress must approve its continuation. This keeps the President’s power in check, as only Congress can officially declare war. In this sense, yes.

    On the other hand, Congress rarely declares war without the President’s initiation, and they also rarely deny his war powers. Almost every war the United States has entered into began with the President and Congress then followed suit. They have very rarely stopped his war once it started. So, in this sense, no. It is still technically “Bush’s war.”

  40. Aut0mat1c says:

    Did they throw puppies off a cliff?

  41. penarestel says:

    @Smitherd: Even I didn’t know that little factoid.
    You learn something new every day.


  42. Darkwish says:

    @Aut0mat1c: Perhaps they were only trying to teach poodles how to fly.

  43. ablestmage says:

    1. Being a hero does not mean you can demand hero benefits — it is only given and never asked for. The true reward for defending a country is a country defended, and the defender would naturally be satisfied with only that much. If there are bonuses great, but if there aren’t, you did what you meant to do for the country. Don’t use your hero designation to demand special treatment. It’s obscene.

    2. Classic example of someone being treated unfairly to a very marginal degree, and then making a giant blanket statement that “company x treats all people-of-my-group like crap!” without bothering to gather further evidence that their simple happenstance.

    3. I’m going with Verizon on this one. The bill really is the writers’ fault because they assumed Verizon would honor the Act’s terms — by just sending off the letter and forgetting about it — instead of doing the smart thing and calling them ahead of time to tell them the letter is on the way and to ensure that when the letter is received, that it will be taken care of. What the the writer has instead decided, was akin to throwing to tossing a medicine ball into the air and made elaborate plans for the ball not to bonk them on the head when it came back down — and is angry that their plans were ruined for extremely predictable results.

    4. According to information from the SCRA link in the article, cell phone services are not described even remotely under available protections.

  44. ClayS says:

    They are fighting Al Qaeada in Iraq. Al Qaeada damaged Verizon property at 140 West St. on 9-11-01.

  45. AceKicker says:

    I always knew the Verizon guy looked like a terrorist!

  46. tmed says:

    Verizon is a big company and it has managed to employ some idiots.

    Make the next call. Be civil, explain calmly, and mention the law without mentioning lawyers.

    Verizon is big enough that they also employ someone intelligent enough to fix this.

    If that doesn’t work, get a lawyer.

    Those numbers will be hard to get back, unfortunately. If they were vital, you may need a lawyer earlier.

  47. scoobydoo says:

    This just makes me want to punch the “can you hear me now” dude in the face even more.

  48. tmed says:


    Al Quaeda went to Iraq after us. Saddam and Al Qaeada didn’t agree on how to run a country.

  49. mammalpants says:

    remember what the president just said…

    “We should THANK the telecom companies!”

    Thank you, Verizon!

  50. kc2idf says:


    t sounds like they may not have sent a copy of their deployment orders, as required by the act.

    I’m not sure I agree with you. From the article:

    What is truly amazing is that the company took the letters our commanding officers signed regarding our deployment dates, and deemed the letters not worthy of suspending our contracts.

    In order for this statement to be valid, the letters would have to have been presented, don’t you think? I could be wrong, of course.

  51. Canoehead says:

    If the letters from their COs were insufficient, then Verizon should have notified them of this so they could have provided a copy of their orders. Verizon knew why the bills were not being paid – it wasn’t jsut delinquency. I can understand if Verizon’s rules (or the SCRA) requires additional documentation, but shouldn’t they have at least made a minimal effort to obtain it?

  52. marsneedsrabbits says:

    It sounds like one very bad customer service manager at Verizon, not the entire company.

    Their second call got them a courteous response and a credit.

    The first guy should be made an ex-Verizon customer service manager.

  53. Pylon83 says:

    It says “letters” not “orders.” I read that as “we had our commander write us a letter saying we were deployed”, not the official deployment papers from the Military. I’m not doubting that they sent something, I’m doubting whether it was “official” enough. I perceive a vast difference between official orders and a letter from your commander. Like the difference between a note from the doctor saying you’re sick and a note from mom saying that the doctor said you’re sick. Since Verizon is not obligated under the law to suspend, they are free to require whatever doc’s they want. If they didn’t get what they require, I can see why they reacted in the manner they did.

  54. trujunglist says:

    I don’t really see anywhere that Verizon acknowledged the fact that they received letters. To me, that is somewhat glossed over, which means that they probably didn’t get the letters. If they said yeah, we received your letters, and here’s a big f-u to both of you, then it’s definitely a problem. If they never got the letter, which is impossible to decide based on the irate (justified) explanation posted above, then at least Verizon owned up and refunded the money. Not much they can do about the phone numbers.

  55. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @Pylon83: You know, I think you’re probably on the same internets as we are. These are things you could find out for yourself, instead of demanding that others prove your baseless assertions wrong.

    Now, using the magical power of Google, I’ve found the text of the act. Why don’t you put a little work into your arguments instead of automatically gainsaying everyone else’s? Heck, you might even be able to prove yourself right.

  56. ? graffiksguru says:

    I’m pretty sure there is a difference between a letter from their CO and official deployment orders. I bet if they were to furnish those, everything will be peachy, except for the fact their numbers are gone (don’t see how they are going to get those back).

  57. Japheaux says:

    Call Ermey…..he’s probably gonna rip their heads off and crap down their fiber optics.

  58. mac-phisto says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: go, go google power!

  59. jtheletter says:

    @Pylon83: Can you cite the specific provision of the law that says they must excuse service contracts?

    How about Verizon’s OWN POLICY? I searched for ‘military deployment’ on, was it really that hard?
    Also you keep arguing about how maybe they didn’t send in the right paperwork, etc. Go look it up instead of posting 10 times about maybe this and maybe that. From that same link: “Be prepared to provide military base and commanding officer information.” To me that says an official letter from the CO is sufficient. And yes, I noticed that the link above is a 2007 news announcement about changes to the policy, but the policy for suspending service for military members was already in place before that date.

  60. GhettoGodfather says:

    @graffiksguru: This is a difference but not much. A Commanding Officer (who is commissioned) has notary power. His signature on a document has the same weight as any notarized document. In addition, as an official of the United States government, a signed letter from a Commander almost always holds more weight than orders. There are many cases of orders being cut for a service member (or groups of service members) that are never executed (usually last minute issues that prevent their execution).

    I’ll be changing service providers upon my return to the states as well.

    Welcome home Marine!!

    SGT Brandon True

  61. wellfleet says:

    i have no opinion on cell phone service providers, but i’m glad you’re back home, safe, and in one piece.

  62. bobosgirl says:

    Actually- I have a nephew who’s just been deployed, and this act applies to ALL credit accounts, including utilities, cell phones, leases,credit cards, etc. Verizon dropped the ball big time@Pylon83:

  63. G-Deuce says:

    Some folks here are misinformed. The SCRA has several provisions. One allows servicemembers to terminate housing or vehicle leases, another requires lenders to reduce interest rates on revolving credit for reservists and those new to the service. Lastly civil court cases must be stayed until the service member returns so creditors cannot obtain a default judgement while the service member is deployed. As an Army legal assistance attorney I have had success in getting these types of fees reduced or accounts put on hold with a letter. Anyone finding themselves in a similar situation should go to their post/base legal assistance office to speack with a military attorney for free.

  64. pfeng says:

    My Verizon wireless contract is ending in about a month. I’ll be mentioning this to the CSR as one of the many reasons I’m leaving them. It’s illegal and unethical, Verizon deserves to get a big slap.

  65. penarestel says:

    @ClayS: Really?

    I didn’t know they found proof of Al Qaeada’s operations in Iraq.

  66. Cary says:

    If Sprint and AT&T weren’t even bigger scum I’d leave Verizon when my contract expires.

  67. cyborg5001 says:

    The act states loosely that:
    No military member shall be required to pay ANY SERVICE bill while they are deployed to an overseas war location. This would include cable, internet, cell phone, land-line phone, insurance, car loan (Maybe?), or any other SERVICE that they will not be able to use/utilize while deployed.

    It also states that you can not be required to cancel or terminate a contract if one exists, but some companies will terminate your contract without fee if you ask them to. The companies are required to either not charge for the service or put it on hold until you return. Either way no bill for that service.

    It does however allow for interest to grow on debt, even though payments are not required (I don’t know if this counts for Mortgages and homeowners insurance).
    It also allows you to break a home/apartment lease without penalty.

    This is all because it can be quite difficult to pay your bills from 8,000 miles away. Mail can take up to 3 weeks to arrive from your post office back home, and then take another week or two to make it back to the states. So paying bills on time is not easy/possible. Yes you could pay bills over the net, but not everyone accepts net payments, and then again, not every military member has internet access to begin with.

    This was explained to us in our pre-deployment briefing. Basically to comply with this act you are supposed to send notification to your service companies that you are being deployed for over 30 days. This notification is not REQUIRED to be your orders; it can be an official letter from your commander stating the estimated dates. For my deployment, we didn’t get our orders until we were waiting for the plane to arrive and whisk us off to the Middle East. We were in quarantine so walking to the nearest copy machine to make copies of our orders, and then finding a mail box to send those orders to our service providers wasn’t exactly possible. Then once you are boots on the ground the last thing you are thinking of is “I need to make sure that Cox has my orders” it’s more along the lines of “How do I not get shot on my first day.” Besides, copy machines aren’t really readily available over there either. Something about the government not wanting to pay Halliburton $400,000 for a $6,000 copier or something.

    Personally, AT&T/Cingular/AT&T tried to pull the $5 a month account suspension “maintenance fee” on me, and I told them about the act, and that I would not be paying any fee without them talking to base legal first. The CSR kindly “found” the correct military suspension code and took care of that for me.

    But what this all comes down to, if something like this happens, this act is supposed to protect you. It’s a pretty decent catch all to corporations, “I’m risking my life for the country, wait for your money.”

    Unfortunately your phone numbers are gone, and since they are reassigned you can’t really get them back. But you can press Verizon for some extra compensation, and just remind them of the act that they violated and the fact you risked your life to keep them free enough to rip you off.

  68. cyborg5001 says:

    I wanted to also note that I didn’t even have to send AT&T/Cingular/AT&T a letter from my commander, I also never sent any orders, and they had it taken care of before I left, they never asked for either.
    But I did take a letter to all of my local companies by hand. The other companies were all satisfied by the letter and charged nothing during my deployment.

  69. dweebster says:

    @cmdr.sass: It’s only “Bush’s War” when his crew can claim some sort of positive spin on it. (The last few years it seems the White House hasn’t been giving themselves the well-deserved credit for lying us and Congress into the war and bankrupting the country that they so richly deserve).

    I can’t imagine what a mess it must be to come back from a warzone to civilian life and try getting some semblance of a normal life back up and running, especially with PTSD so rampant.

  70. coolkiwilivin says:

    @dweebster: Where is this coming from? Good night, you bush haters are worse than any religous zealot you love to complain about. I love how you to love to take the plight of someone who has a genuine problem and use it for your own hatred and loathing. Good night you people are abusers. Stick with the issue and don’t use someone else’s problems as an opportunity to bash the president. Take some responsibility for your self, I guess your name dweebster is an apt description of your maturity level. But then again that’s probably also President Bush’s fault as well.

  71. rolla says:

    its one thing to complaint about a carrier’s service/CS towards civilians, but its another thing when they treat military people like that. After this story, i’ve changed my mind and i will be looking towards one of the other carriers when my current contract expires. I refuse to give my hard-earned money to a company that doesnt respect the people putting their LIVES on the line each and every day.

  72. Benstein says:

    F$ck Verizon.

  73. Orv says:

    @penarestel: A lot of people are still confusing the group “Al Queda in Iraq” with the Al Queda that organized the 9/11 attack. The latter organization was largely based in Afghanistan and had no presence in Iraq. In the chaos after the invasion a terrorist group formed in Iraq and borrowed the Al Queda “brand name” to get themselves some added clout. You won’t hear anyone in the Bush Administration pointing out that these are separate groups, however, because conflating the two bolsters their agenda.

  74. Difdi says:

    If a copy of the actual orders were actually required, wouldn’t it suck if doing so would constitute espionage? Say, for a secret assignment?

  75. MasterShazbot says:

    Why don’t these Marines leave out the “Executive Email” part of EECB and just carpet bomb Verizon? They could write “Can you hear me now?” on the nose of the bombs

  76. jess27 says:

    Gee, that’s funny because I had no big problems suspending my contract with Verizon when I was in Iraq for a year. I do believe they gave my number away, and I had to resubmit my orders after six months, but I was never charged any bogus fines. I am also pretty sure that if you just called them up and resubmitted your actual orders, they would clear everything up. I think this story is blown way out of proportion.

  77. cyborg5001 says:

    @MasterShazbot: That would be comforting for a little while, but then the bill for the bombs would come in, $500 would look like pocket lint compared to the bomb bill.

  78. Phantom_Photon says:

    I may not support the War in Iraq (for the record, I’m Canadian), but those brave souls over there risking their lives for what they believe in deserve our support! If this wasn’t a law, Verizon should still have supported the troops! But, from what I understand, it IS a law! You guys have courts down there, make sure you make an example of Verizon…

  79. Smitherd says:

    @Phantom_Photon: That is unnecessary. They do it for us.

    Seriously though, could Verizon ask for worse PR? Surely they didn’t believe that this would go unheard. Things like this make the mere mention of Verizon’s name around a VFW hall blasphemy.

  80. WHATABOUTIT says:

    if you have so many questions and concerns about how verizon handles military suspensions, maybe you should call them… they can give you the info right over the phone. the one guy was right.Verizon WILL actually temporarily suspend the service or disconnect for NO FEE-WITH the required documentation. And i’m almost sure you don’t even need documentation anymore. Just because of situations like this where so many people got pissed about something they HEARD and didnt know both sides of the story. Again, the guy could have been treated better, but we dont know how that went down either-