My Son’s $5,000 Cell Phone Bill


Well, I’ve still been in summer mode in regards to homeschooling, hence fewer posts. In addition, I’ve been dealing with a few projects around here that I hope finish before school starts. One such project that I have been dealing with, has been trying to get Verizon to reverse the nearly $5,000 cell phone bill my son ran up. Can you believe that it is even possible to get a $5,000 phone bill!?!? Seriously, that is like the price of a used car or something! Anyway, I thought I’d post about it as a warning to other parents that this can happen and has a means to vent a bit on my part. My son is 11 and we got him a cell phone because he belongs to a gaming club that runs for 4-5 hours. As we don’t like to hang out at the store the whole time, we sometimes leave and come back. We wanted him to be able to call us, however, if something went wrong or the club ended early. We also wanted him to have a phone that had our number programmed in to it as he might not remember our phone number, due to his learning disabilities (he knows it, but sometimes still forgets it for a while – one of the joys of learning disabilities is their inconsistencies).

We let him use one of my old, fancy phones, so he could listen to music like his siblings do, but we were very clear with the Verizon salesperson when we signed up – block the internet so he doesn’t run up a big bill (like a $1,000 my husband naively joked).

So, my son got home and wanted to download a few apps. As the internet was supposedly blocked, I reviewed the downloads and figured the site he was going to was a special non-blocked Verizon site. So he downloaded the apps, giving me the money to pay for them.

One of the apps had a free trial that allowed him to listen to the radio. Well, it appears that the free trial did not include the internet bandwidth the music would play over (at least that is the best I can understand things as they don’t give detailed data usage charges). And it so happens that Verizon did not block internet access on the phone (they blocked everything but internet access). And it so happens that we went on a couple of short road trips, giving him ample time to listen to the radio.

Our first bill came and the e-mail notice said it was almost $2400. I laughed, “Wow! That is a big typo!” At the same time, deep inside me, my gut rumbled with apprehension. So I checked the bill and sure enough, it was no typo! It took a while to even figure out how we could have such a big bill. Then the Verizon support staff said they would submit the bill to have the charges reversed as internet access should have been blocked. The bill, however, was never corrected, so we called again. It seems that the request to reverse the charges was denied. The Verizon support staff do not know why, so they resubmitted it. Meanwhile, the next bill ended up being even larger.

We’re giving Verizon until next week to sort this out. If they don’t, we’re going to contact our lawyer to see if we have any legal standing on this. I am seriously hoping that Verizon will reverse the charges and that will be that. We will have to go through this all again for the next bill though.

My really big complaint is that I feel that Verizon should contact people when a bill gets to a certain point, just like banks do with credit cards that have a sudden flurry of activity. We’ve been with Verizon for years and our bill has never strayed from a certain range. All of a sudden, it goes up by nearly $5,000! I don’t know, doesn’t it seem like they should give us a call, send an e-mail, or something, when it got to $1,000?!?!

So the moral of this story? Don’t let kids have phones that can access the internet, if that is possible. And as sad as it may make you, realize that though kids with learning disabilities want to do things that their peers and siblings do, they may not be capable of reading or understanding the “fine print” (assuming it was there) like their peers and siblings can. In this day and age, with all of the cyber predators out there, this is even more important for safety reasons. How this will translate with our son as he grows older, I’m not sure.

Labels: High School
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff