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Thread: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

  1. #1

    Default Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    I just received the monthly bill from AT&T for the good old land line. Usually the bill is pretty uneventful, since we use our cell phones for everything except our internet service and long distance for my wife's home office, which is reimbursed by her company. This time however it had over 2 grand in international calling charges.

    My first reaction was "WTF, somebody hacked my phone number and ran up huge bills"

    Then the nagging realization came to me that back in March the 18-year-old boyfriend of my 16-year-old daughter went to Africa for a month on a missionary trip. My daughter perhaps did make all of the phone calls, 10 hours over 3 days. When confronted, she claimed that her boyfriend's grandfather had a prepaid international calling card and that is what she used. Well... that may be just a lie, I don't know. But she probably did make all of those calls somehow. The bill is now due. Her calling card excuse makes sense, because we would have noticed her tieing up the landline for 10 hours. Unless we were all asleep, which is possible-- the calls were between 7AM and noon, but if that is the time in Zambia, it would have been between 1AM and 6AM EST, and everyone but my daughter would presumably be asleep and not noticing her being on the freakin' phone.

    My question, if a minor is able to rack up huge charges, that are apparently real, is there any recourse to dispute those charges? Probbaly not, I guess, and morally we are responsible for the calls, even though the rate was incredible.

    Just asking for people's thoughts. Any experience with a kid racking up a huge charge, possibly by accident?
    The poster "pacertom" since this forum began (and before!). I changed my name here to "Slick Pinkham" in honor of the imaginary player That Bobby "Slick" Leonard picked late in the 1971 ABA draft (true story!)

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    DIET COKE! Trader Joe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    Wow, I almost feel like they should warn you if the charges are going to be that high.

    Like hey, you've now been on a call to Africa for 10 hours, you do realize you have now spent TWENTY FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS, right?

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  3. #3
    Jimmy did what Jimmy did Bball's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    I'd find that "prepaid intl calling card" and find out how much it was used, or if it was used at all... and also HOW your daughter used it (just to see if she didn't properly use it in the first place... or quickly used up the minutes on it... or the card maybe didn't get properly billed by the ATT in the first place).

    Dunno what I'd do ultimately but the first place I'd start is knowing everything about that calling card and knowing everything your daughter can tell me about her usage of that calling card.
    Nuntius was right. I was wrong. Frank Vogel has retained his job.

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  4. #4

    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    Thanks everyone.

    My guess is that my daughter is being umm... less than truthful and there never was any phonecard.

    She won't throw him under the bus, but I'd bet that the boyfriend, while in Africa and when he had internet access, IM'ed her or posted on facebook, telling her to call him at a specific number, and perhaps that he got a "deal" on the phone call. That seems most likely, but next to impossible to prove and pin him for any liability.

    Next I have to find a way to impress upon a 16-year-old girl who didn't bother to look for a summer job that she has to come up with a way to pay us back over 2 grand.
    Last edited by Slick Pinkham; 06-28-2010 at 05:19 PM.
    The poster "pacertom" since this forum began (and before!). I changed my name here to "Slick Pinkham" in honor of the imaginary player That Bobby "Slick" Leonard picked late in the 1971 ABA draft (true story!)

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  6. #5

    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    I have nothing more useful to add under the circumstances than "bend over" as advice. Bball's right - try to figure out as much as you can about the alleged card. Your best bet is to try to find some indicator that AT&T improperly or fraudulently billed you. But under what you seemed to think happened, that's tough.

    Either way, I'd call and argue with AT&T until they call the cops. What more could they do?

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    International Counter bellisimo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    i experienced a similar situation when i was young...i wont go in to details but a certain 15 year old ended up bringing home a $1000 phone bill in one month...once we had pleaded the case, the phone company did not cancel the charge but were "nice" enough to divide it into smaller bills for 10 months...

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    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    Yup, if she did make the calls, then you need to foot the bill.

    Ask her straight up. Ask her to produce the calling card. You should be able to find out from AT&T what exact numbers have been called from your phone, I believe.

  9. #8
    Cheeseburger in Paradise Los Angeles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    Quote Originally Posted by btowncolt View Post
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    Either way, I'd call and argue with AT&T until they call the cops. What more could they do?
    Ruin your credit.

    PS - a number of "calling cards" that people think are legit are actually scam systems, you dial a number which then connects you to another number at an additional charge and then the home line gets charged for everything anyway.

    Calling cards that are too good to be true are in fact too good to be true.

    Best course of action is to beg and plead with the phone company, they can maybe lower the cost by retroactively enrolling you in an international calling plan and then they can make a payment arrangement.

    Oh, and make sure the daughter pays a percentage of the bill by mowing the lawn all summer.
    “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” - Winston Churchill

    “If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to serve as a horrible warning.” - Catherine Aird

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    make sure she pays a percentage like 100% by giving you money.

  11. #10

    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    Quote Originally Posted by Los Angeles View Post
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    Ruin your credit.
    I was assuming he wasn't going to go so far as to refuse to pay under all circumstances and seduce the CEO's granddaughter.

  12. #11
    Jimmy did what Jimmy did Bball's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    Well... the other option is to play dumb with ATT in questioning the charges and see what they tell you. I'm sure if you mention there's even a chance the calls came from your house then "EVERYTHING" ATT has will 'confirm' that... ... Even if there has been some kind of fraudulent billing going on that they are aware of you probably will get no benefit of the doubt if you let them know you even suspect the calls might be legit.

    So pretend you don't know how they would've came from your house. If they come back and say they had to have, and your daughter gives you reason to believe she did make some/all the phone calls... then you're pretty much on the hook... Tell ATT you're going to speak with your daughter and tell her what ATT is saying. And ask ATT if she did make these calls if you have any options. Such as what LA mentioned... or some type of payment plan... Anything would be better than getting that 2K slap all at once.

    I have no idea how you get 2000.00 from a turnip. ...And if your daughter has no job that would be about the same thing. BUT... a turnip can't do chores and your daughter can...

    Maybe have a family yard sale and mark off some of the debt for your daughter helping with it and more of the debt with the things of her's that she can part with that you can sell.

    EDIT: BTW- I wouldn't force her to sell any of her stuff. ...But you might let her know how serious you are about being paid back so that she does try to find enough items to sell to make a dent in the bill... or at least a dent in the first payment.
    Last edited by Bball; 06-28-2010 at 08:03 PM.
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    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    Quote Originally Posted by Bball View Post
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    Well... the other option is to play dumb with ATT in questioning the charges and see what they tell you. I'm sure if you mention there's even a chance the calls came from your house then "EVERYTHING" ATT has will 'confirm' that... ... Even if there has been some kind of fraudulent billing going on that they are aware of you probably will get no benefit of the doubt if you let them know you even suspect the calls might be legit.

    So pretend you don't know how they would've came from your house. If they come back and say they had to have, and your daughter gives you reason to believe she did make some/all the phone calls... then you're pretty much on the hook... Tell ATT you're going to speak with your daughter and tell her what ATT is saying. And ask ATT if she did make these calls if you have any options. Such as what LA mentioned... or some type of payment plan... Anything would be better than getting that 2K slap all at once.

    I have no idea how you get 2000.00 from a turnip. ...And if your daughter has no job that would be about the same thing. BUT... a turnip can't do chores and your daughter can...

    Maybe have a family yard sale and mark off some of the debt for your daughter helping with it and more of the debt with the things of her's that she can part with that you can sell.

    EDIT: BTW- I wouldn't force her to sell any of her stuff. ...But you might let her know how serious you are about being paid back so that she does try to find enough items to sell to make a dent in the bill... or at least a dent in the first payment.
    Manual labor. Lots and lots of it. She'll learn. She might hate him for a bit, but she'll learn.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    I would call AT&T and see if they would be willing to cut you some slack on the bill.

    I had an ex-girlfriend who on occasion would get crazy with roaming and long distance charges on our cell phone plan. Nothing in the $2500 dollar range, but almost $1000 one month. I called Sprint and let them know the situation, to see what could be done about paying off that huge debt. To my surprise, the Sprint rep was happy to just abolish the bill altogether, aside from the standard monthly fee. After speaking with her a while, she informed me that she could wipe out a phone bill no problem, so long as I don't do it more than once a year.

    So I would say it is worth a call. Just be polite and respectable, and they may be more than glad to help, especially if you are a long time customer.

  15. #14

    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    Peripheral issue:


    Why did the kid go all that way in order to talk to his girlfriend on the phone?


    I have the experience of being host to very many Christian youth groups on "mission" trips. Some of them did some good work. Many did not.

    (My favorite story is of a bunch of soft California kids. While coming over the mountain pass leading to where I lived, two of them got nosebleeds from the altitude and dry air. And then the girl sitting between them passed out from the sight of blood. that bunch arrived feeling victimized and emotionally spent, and accomplished nothing.)

    I suggest you also talk to the leaders of the "mission" trip and ask why the kid had so much free time when he wasn't working or with the group. It won't help pay your bill, but it will help them realize they didn't manage the trip very well.

    (Where did the group go to? Africa is a continent with over 50 countries in it.)
    And I won't be here to see the day
    It all dries up and blows away
    I'd hang around just to see
    But they never had much use for me
    In Levelland. (James McMurtry)

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    Administrator Unclebuck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    I think first you need to decide if you really do owe the bill. But even if you determine that you do, I would try to work something out with At&T. If nothing else a payment plan free of interest.

    And no they aren't going to call the cops. Worst thing is they ruin your credit rating, send to a collection agency, but if they already do that chances are you can settle for 40% - 50% of the original bill

  17. #16

    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    Quote Originally Posted by Putnam View Post
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    I suggest you also talk to the leaders of the "mission" trip and ask why the kid had so much free time when he wasn't working or with the group. It won't help pay your bill, but it will help them realize they didn't manage the trip very well.

    (Where did the group go to? Africa is a continent with over 50 countries in it.)
    The boyfriend's Dad is a minister and led the trip. Upon review, the calls were made between 7PM and 1AM EST, which is 1AM-7AM in Zambia, where the calls were placed to. His group was likely asleep at the time. How our daughter holed up in her room for 6 hours on the phone without us noticing that the landline was tied up I don't know. Like I said, we rarely use the landline, though. Because we don't do any international calling, we have no international calling plan and the rate charged was something like $4/minute.
    The poster "pacertom" since this forum began (and before!). I changed my name here to "Slick Pinkham" in honor of the imaginary player That Bobby "Slick" Leonard picked late in the 1971 ABA draft (true story!)

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    DIET COKE! Trader Joe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    Again, I wonder how AT&T can get away with charging those rates without notifying you before hand? Do they just assume you know?

    It's probably somewhere in your contract, but I would think they are probably fairly reasonable and flexible when it comes to adjusting the charges. Have you tried calling them yet?

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    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    Quote Originally Posted by Trader Joe View Post
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    Again, I wonder how AT&T can get away with charging those rates without notifying you before hand? Do they just assume you know?

    It's probably somewhere in your contract, but I would think they are probably fairly reasonable and flexible when it comes to adjusting the charges. Have you tried calling them yet?
    You just answered your own question. You ever read a cell phone contract? Scary ****.

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    DIET COKE! Trader Joe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    I never read anything, I just sign my name...

    “WE NEVER SURRENDER, WE NEVER GIVE UP, WE KEEP ATTACKING”- Frank Vogel
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    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    Quote Originally Posted by Trader Joe View Post
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    I never read anything, I just sign my name...
    Same. Everyone does. Yay!

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    DIET COKE! Trader Joe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    Quote Originally Posted by btowncolt View Post
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    Same. Everyone does. Yay!
    Isn't that why you have a job? You should hope the trend continues...

    “WE NEVER SURRENDER, WE NEVER GIVE UP, WE KEEP ATTACKING”- Frank Vogel
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    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    Quote Originally Posted by Trader Joe View Post
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    Isn't that why you have a job? You should hope the trend continues...
    Yay!

  24. #23

    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    Quote Originally Posted by Slick Pinkham View Post
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    The boyfriend's Dad is a minister and led the trip.

    That figures.








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    And I won't be here to see the day
    It all dries up and blows away
    I'd hang around just to see
    But they never had much use for me
    In Levelland. (James McMurtry)

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    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    Phone secks.







    “WE NEVER SURRENDER, WE NEVER GIVE UP, WE KEEP ATTACKING”- Frank Vogel
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  26. #25

    Default Re: Question for the lawyers or Holiday Inn express guests: my $2500 phone bill

    All hail to AT&T. Seriously! Wow.

    After over a hour on the phone and talking to several AT&T supervisors, I gave them the full story without lying, emphasizing that:

    1) A minor in our home used an apparently fake international calling card.
    2) From our billing history, this was obviously an accident
    3) We had taken steps to make sure that this could not happen again, since the first agent I talked to yesterday, while being unable to help with adjusting the bill, blocked our line from international calling.
    4) We have a spotless on-time payment history
    5) We have been loyal customers, with bundled high-speed internet service for over 5 years

    So I asked if anything could be done with regards to bill remediation, considering all of these factors. Of course the 1st person said no. I asked for a supervisor. I calmly repeated the same story. To my stunned surprise, she had enough clout to re-rate the calls to their least expensive international calling plan, $5 per month, for a call rate of 59 cents per minute. To do this they enrolled us in this calling plan, but said we could cancel it in a month. Even this supervisor had to go up the chain at least two levels to authorize this big of a bill adjustment, since originally the calls were billed at about $4 per minute.

    Bottom line, a $2500 phone bill became a $400 phone bill. Best hour I ever spent!

    Moral: keep asking to talk to a supervisor, be honest, and keep emphasizing your customer loyalty. I think I missed my calling in sales. I can’t believe that they were willing to help.

    Now my daughter has to cough up about $300 for the extra charges. That is at least something that she can "work off" whereas $2400 was just hopeless.
    Last edited by Slick Pinkham; 06-29-2010 at 12:06 PM.
    The poster "pacertom" since this forum began (and before!). I changed my name here to "Slick Pinkham" in honor of the imaginary player That Bobby "Slick" Leonard picked late in the 1971 ABA draft (true story!)

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