In January of 2013, I stopped using my Verizon phone because I had switched to my husband's plan with AT&T with a new phone I had gotten as a Christmas gift from him.
In February of 2013, my mother, the account owner, called Verizon to find out what her options were regarding the phone and line that were no longer being used. She explained that I had gotten a new phone and was now on my husband's plan with AT&T, that the old phone was no longer in use by anybody, and asked what her options were regarding the contract. She was informed that it would be $175 to cancel the plan, and advised she should let the contract run out.
At the beginning of April, my mother discovered over $500 worth of charges on my old line. We discovered that somebody was using the phone in Mexico (I live in El Paso, right on the border) and had been for the past month. I've been to Mexico once, in 2010, and never Juarez, the city across the border where the phone was being used.
We contacted Verizon immediately and they suspended the service. They then informed us that because we didn't notify them within 48 hours, we were responsible for all charges.
Verizon's customer agreement reads: “Keep in mind that you may be held responsible for the charges if you delayed reporting the loss or theft without good reason.” My good reason is that the phone was no longer in use, and I simply didn't realize it had been stolen. One representative suggested that I was merely trying to get out of paying the charges even though I had incurred them. However, Verizon acknowledges that they documented the call my mother made in February informing them that the phone was no longer in use, and asking what options were available. We filed a police report that same day, and the same representative suggested that we pay Verizon even if we feel we shouldn't, because the police will get us our money back. This is most likely untrue and it seems wrong for the representative to state this as fact.
Verizon's defense is that they have to pay international charges regardless of whether the phone was stolen, so they don't really care whether it was or not, we still must pay. However, there were ways that Verizon could've helped to prevent the theft of services since they knew the phone was no longer in use.
First, they could've informed my mother that suspending the phone was an option. I only recently learned that the phone could've been suspended with billing and that this wouldn't have affected the contract date. When my mother called to inform them the phone was no longer being used, she was not informed that suspension with billing was an option. On April 11, I spoke with a representative named Sheila who claimed that that wasn't actually an option and that's why my mother wasn't presented it as an option. She said that the only way to suspend a Verizon phone with billing without extending the contract is to claim it stolen, which we weren't doing in February, and that any other suspension requires that the contract is extended. However, this is untrue. Verizonwireless.com plainly states that you may suspend a phone with billing and that this will not affect the contract. This would've prevented these charges from ever being incurred, but the representative my mother spoke to did not present it as an option even though she was calling to figure out her options regarding the phone no longer in use.
Second, my mother could've received an alert to inform her that the phone was being used internationally. In fact, Verizon must implement this policy by April 17, 2013, which means we were just unlucky enough to have the phone stolen a month before this policy would come into place. Verizon and other carriers are implementing this policy because of recurring problems where customers receive their bill to find huge charges that they never even realized were being incurred. If my mother had been alerted to the charges, she could've reported the phone stolen immediately. If my phone had been stolen next month, this wouldn't have been a problem.
We have acted reasonably in this situation. The phone was no longer being used, and we contacted Verizon to figure out our options. We were given few. The phone was stolen without notice due to the circumstances, and as soon as we were made aware of the theft by the charges, we contacted Verizon. Verizon failed to act in ways to help prevent the charges and now wants us to pay for their failures.
In addition, Verizon has been rather difficult to communicate with regarding this issue. On April 2, the day the charges were noted and we contacted Verizon, I spoke with a woman who said she'd call me back the following day once she spoke to her supervisor. I never received a call. On April 4, I called customer service and spoke with a woman who put in a “Diamond Ticket” so that the charges could be investigated to ensure the phone was actually stolen (checking stuff like phone numbers and usage, which indeed, are completely different from the past seven years I've had the phone). She told me it would take 48 hours to process the ticket and that either I or my mother would be called the following Monday, the 8th, to hear the results. Nobody ever contacted us, and I called back on April 11th to be told that they had found the charges valid (i.e., we're still responsible for paying them due to the delay in reporting the phone stolen), but, for some reason, we were never contacted and informed of this conclusion. On the 11th, I was told there was nothing else I could do and I had to pay these charges.
Monetary Loss: $500.