The Fraud Alert: Your Mobile phone company


This month’s Fraud Alert may not be formally classified as a fraud, but ignoring the warnings here can cost you a lot of money! If you get careless, then as the old adage goes, “There is likely not thing one you can do about it.”

About a year ago, my mobile phone company called (and emailed me) to offer to give me a new phone for “free!” I talked to the agent who called me. He assured me that the two new phones for my wife and me were free. I then asked him if the new phone would work with my current plan. He informed me that it would not. Checking further, the agent informed me that the new contract compatible with the new phones would jump my monthly bill by $30 per line. I told him, “Then the new phones are not free!” He kept insisting that the phones were free, it is just the new service that costs more. He would not relent. I finally gave up talking to him and kept our old phones with our same low-cost service.

A few months ago, my mobile phone company contacted me once again to offer the latest model new phones for my wife and me. I told the agent that I did not believe her at which point I reiterated my previous situation. She said she understood but assured me that the new phones were free and I would stay on my current plan; I would just have to commit to it for another two years. After much further discussion and skepticism, I was finally convinced that the offer of a free phone with no increase in my monthly service rate was legitimate. Thus, I agreed to have the phone company send me two new phones. I admit that after the new phones arrived, the agents were very patient and helpful in assisting me in moving my data, etc., from my old phones to my new phones and properly getting the new phones up and running.

I then returned my old phones to the company. By the way, the old mobile phone service centers are now only sales agents that can sell you a new phone and sign you up for a new service. When I asked the agent who called about just going to the local mobile phone store to get the same deal, I was informed that the store could not offer this deal. Based on the experience of other family members dealing with the local phone store, I believe it.

For the first couple of months, everything was fine; the phones worked well and my monthly bill remained the same. Then I got a text message from my mobile phone company. “Notice of Account Change / (Company) – We didn’t receive the trade-in phone needed to keep the 0/mo. promo price for phone on line 937-xxx-xxxx. Your payment is now XX.XX/mo.” I received two such texts; one for each phone. I immediately called the phone company. The agent on the other end of the line informed me that the company had no record of receiving my returned phones. Fortunately, I had the UPS tracking number for the shipment in hand. I provided the number to the agent who then confirmed that indeed the phones had been received at their primary way station. She then placed the additional payments on hold while informing the receiving area to look for the phones. So far, I have not been charged for the old phones even though I have never received confirmation that they have found them.

This sounded eerily familiar to an incident my son-in-law told about sometime earlier (which is why I was especially diligent to keep and have the tracking number document handy). He told me that he returned his old phone upon receiving a new one, but, he failed to keep the tracking information. The phone company (a different company from mine) stated that he would be charged each month for the old phone until he paid it off and if he failed to honor his contract, they would sue him which would hurt his credit rating.

Fortunately, he had replacement insurance coverage on the phone. However, when he contacted the insurance company, the first thing he heard was a recording stating, “If this call is in regards to charges caused by your phone company claiming they have not received your old phone, hang up now and call your phone provider; otherwise, select one of the following options….” Once my son-in-law made his selection, the message repeated at least one more time before he was able to talk to a live person. Get the picture?

Certainly, your mobile phone company — whichever one — may be offering some great deals at the moment, and they are legitimately great deals provided you do not get stuck with an extra monthly payment wherein the phone company claims they never received the returned device. Thus, always do the following as a minimum:

• Log the exact time, date, and location where you submitted your return package;

• Use a manned return office where you can obtain a paper receipt; do NOT use a remote drop box;

• Obtain a receipt from the UPS or FedEx agent with the tracking number on it. Guard this receipt as if losing it could cost you a lot of money — because losing/misplacing it very well may!

• I also suggest that you keep a log of everyone to whom you talk at the phone company. Record the agent’s name, time, and date you talked, and pertinent information discussed during the phone call.

By Don Shrader

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