Help! Verizon overbilled my mother

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Mindy Reyes’ mother is facing a big phone bill from Verizon for service she didn’t order. Can this be fixed?

Question: I’m very frustrated and I hope you can help. I am advocating for my elderly mother and the advantage Verizon has taken of her. We have been dealing with this issue since December 2013 and although I have used your wonderful resources that have been very helpful for me in the past, we are at an impasse.

In addition to billing my mother erroneous charges for items and assigning the least cost-effective plans in order to generate tremendous overage charges, a fraudulent phone line was placed on my mother’s account.

I have spoken on the phone for endless hours with various people at Verizon. I have been able to get certain things accomplished. However, one credit that was issued was an early termination fee for the fraudulent line and Verizon has since rebilled for $357.

Verizon has offered a ridiculous explanation and even has the nerve to say that her account was delinquent during these past months, which it was not. Can I please request your assistance?

Mindy Reyes, Sunrise, Fla.

Answer: There’s a special place in hell reserved for those who prey on the elderly. I hope Verizon isn’t among them.

Verizon claims it’s a good corporate citizen and deeply concerned about the issues of seniors. For example, in 2004, it launched a campaign to prevent elder abuse. Verizon also offers special programs for seniors.

But that becomes meaningless when I hear from someone like you, whose mother is stuck with a bill for phone service she never ordered.

Needless to say, there was a lot of confusion about your mother’s case, and plenty of unanswered questions. How had another line been set up in her name? Which of these phone charges were legit? Which ones weren’t?

When your case came in, I contacted Verizon to see if I could fill in a few details. At the same time, one of the other resolution specialists I work with, Debra Fermin, contacted Verizon separately on your behalf.

Fortunately, you kept an excellent paper trail, which you forwarded to us. We contacted Verizon three separate times on your behalf before it agreed to delete the erroneous charges and correct your mother’s phone bill. All told, the process took nearly three months.

I’d like to say that you could have done this yourself, or that your mother could have helped herself, but based on the correspondence between you and Verizon, I’m not convinced it would have made any difference. We list some Verizon executive contacts on our advocacy site, but there’s no guarantee you would have received a favorable response.

Heck, Verizon didn’t even tell us what went wrong with your bill. It just fixed it.

I’m glad you called us.

Does Verizon make it too difficult to fix phone bill errors?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • William_Leeper

    Yes Verizon makes it too hard to fix errors, but so do most other companies.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Yay! A case truly worthy of you folks’ talents!

    I’m curious about the fraudulent second line. Was it a truly unconnected line, as in some person the OP’s mother had never met, or was it for a family member or friend, taking advantage of the mother’s account? If the latter, then I echo wholeheartedly that there is a special place in Hell for those kind of people. If the former, I want to know what Verizon’s excuse was for not clearing up that matter pronto, since I am a Verizon customer.

  • omgstfualready

    Agreed. Nice job.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    There is a process called “cramming” where additional/fraudulent charges are added to your Verizon bill.
    A few years ago, I noticed that my bill increased. I was being charged for voice-mail by a 3rd party that I did not authorize. I already had voice-mail with Verizon.
    What happened next is truly the definition of a Kafkaesque scenario. I contacted Verizon and was told I had to contact this third party. The third party company wanted me to send a copy of my bill (with too much personal info on it) to them. Then they would “look into it.”
    Verizon was fully aware of this practice of cramming where additional charges are added to your bill without your authorization. I was told my a supervisor that “there was nothing that they could do.”
    Verizon wanted me to do all the work to get the additional services cancelled from the third party and I would eventually receive a refund.

  • jim6555

    Verizon sometimes just makes it difficult to communicate with them. In early 2013, I switched my cable, internet service and landline phone to Verizon Fios. A couple of days later, I had a cable service problem and needed to speak with a technician. I looked at every piece of paper that Verizon provided to me and their support phone number was not to be found. I looked at the “contacts” page their web site. Again, no phone number. I had to call a friend who was a long-time FIOS customer to get the number. He told me that he faced the same difficulty when he first signed up. If anyone reading this needs the hard to find number, it is 888-553-1555.

    I have since had to call Verizon several times. One series of calls involved the auto-pay system that was supposed to debit what I owed each month from my checking account. They debited the account twice in the same month. The error was obvious and yet, it took several phone calls and escalating the problem twice to get one of the charges credited back. There is too much hassle involved when dealing with this company. I plan to go back to my previous cable provider when my two year contract expires.

  • emanon256

    Can you hear me now? So glad you could help, so upset it was that difficult. I can’t help but wonder if a Verizon employee took out the additional line for themselves or a friend and intentionally pinned it on an unwilling customer. I voted yes. Curious who voted No and why.

  • Fishplate

    Many years ago, when Verizon first bought out our carrier (Airtouch), we got crammed twice. Both times, a simple phone call to Verizon took care of it. The last time, they put a block on that stuck.

    I may be the only one, but I’ve always had excellent customer service from Verizon. They always explain charges, revers those that aren’t correct, and often make good will adjustments. Weird, right?

    That’s what makes this story so odd to me.

  • Fishplate

    “Does Verizon make it too difficult to fix phone bill errors?”

    They did in this case. But we don’t have their side of the story…and yes, I recognize that they had the opportunity.

    I don’t think you could say yes to a blanket statement like that, with only the evidence posted here, though. I’ve already posted another data point that clearly proves the correct answer is also no.

    And no, I’m not a corporate shill. Just a smart consumer. I even get good service from my Cable TV company!

  • lost_in_travel

    You must be in a part of New England that still has Verizon service. They sold off New Hampshire and Maine to FairPoint. I am sure FairPoint had no idea what they were getting because there were so many land line problems. And the long promised FIOS that never worked well when Verizon had it and was abysmal with FairPoint. I put up with it for quite a while thinking FairPoint might get their act together, but they never could get ahead of the infrastructure problems. They were not easy to cancel but I finally did it. Now I see all the commercials on TV for FIOS and wonder why Verizon cannot tailor their advertising to only areas where it is actually available.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Can you hear me now? Oh, that’s cute.

  • Suzy Seraphine Kimel

    Verizon did the same thing to me a few years ago. They began billing me for all the calls made by a different phone (in PA; I live in FL) and didn’t believe me when I said I didn’t have that number or know the person associated with that phone. It took endless calls and 3 months to remove the charges permanently. So much for privacy, too, since I had pages of printouts of the other person’s calls. No apologies ever issued by Verizon – just insisted I pay her federal taxes even after the line was removed from my bill. :-( I eventually called the other party and mailed her her bills and told her she should raise a ruckus about the loss of privacy.

  • AJPeabody

    My experience is that Verizon makes everything difficult, so I voted “Yes.” Whenever I have to deal with Verizon, I have numerous 10 minute holds and have to speak to at least 3 people, each with a 10 minute hold ,to accomplish anything. I finally switched to the hated cable company. They get a human on the line in 3 minutes or less, including the press 1 to do this rigamarole, and they actually fix things first time.

  • FQTVLR

    I had this cramming with T-Mobile once. I called to complain, they explained how that happened and I would have to contact the third party to solve the problem. I told them I did not authorize the charge and that accidentally tapping an ad on my smart phone did not give immediate consent. They told me they could not fix the problem and I told them I was filing a complaint with the government. Problem solved within 5 additional minutes along with a block on similar 3rd party billing on my account. No problems in the 2 years since then.

  • TonyA_says

    Wow this is so refreshing – a genuine victim and a great resolution (for the home team).
    Bravo. Now back to the USA vs Germany soccer game :-)

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    Sooooooooo glad you could help with this frustrating situation.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    NE = Nebraska, not New England. :)

  • disqus_A6K3VBf8Zn

    Verizon is almost impossible to deal with and its charges are very hard–lots of time–to figure out. Unless one has a set prepaid rate, I discourage anyone from signing up with Verizon

  • Annie M

    It takes Verizon MONTHS to fix their own errors and every time you call them you have to go through the entire story all over again – even though they have what you said in your records. Great outcome for someone who REALLY NEEDED YOUR HELP.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    It was only when I reached probably the 4th person at Verizon did she inform me that Verizon could put a block on any 3rd party cramming in the future.
    I asked her why it took 4 calls to Verizon before a Verizon employee recommended that solution.
    I always try to keep my elderly neighbors informed about this potential for trouble. Too many people either don’t read their paper bill, or if the bill is automatic bill pay, may not notice.

  • LeeAnneClark

    This was my easiest YES vote in one of Christopher’s polls in recent memory.

    My Verizon story has to do with over $300 worth of supposed data downloads on my phone. The bill showed that I had downloaded over 100 songs, videos, and apps, all of which were charged per item, and none of which I had downloaded. They included rap songs (um…I don’t listen to rap), games that I would never play, weird videos…not a single one of those downloads were anything I would ever download. And, the bill showed that they had all been downloaded basically at the same time, which wasn’t even technically possible…each download would have taken some time to do, so they should have been spread out over a longer period of time.

    I fought with Verizon for FOUR MONTHS before they finally cleared my bill. And they kept heaping on the late fees every month. They were INSISTENT that I must have downloaded them, in spite of my vehement assurances that none of those items were on my phone. I even went into the store and tried to SHOW them that they weren’t on my phone…and they accused me of deleting them to avoid paying.

    Eventually they did fix it, but only after I told them I was cancelling all four of my lines.

    I now have a plan that, hopefully, precludes this kind of fraud — unlimited talk/text, and a certain amount of GB for data. So far so good…but I’m waiting for a month when they show that I went over my data allowance even though I normally use only a fraction of it. That one would be hard to fight, since the bills now don’t give you any kind of information about what the data was actually used for.

  • AH

    you may surely be the only one! i’ve had horrible service from verizon from day one – 5 years ago!
    admittedly, i have had a very few excellent customer service reps – but only after being transferred from department to department, being on hold for hours on end and repeating my problem umpteen different times!
    and i had some guy in a verizon shirt show up at my door today to try to sell me an upgrade to my service, as “my address indicated that i didn’t have high speed fios.” (huh, i do! i just don’t have the TV package, and don’t want it, but he wanted me to upgrade my internet – i have the high speed already.) he finally realized that NO meant NO, i wasn’t interested!
    i wish i had a choice, but i don’t.

  • varflow

    my guess those who voted “no” work for Verizon.

  • Lowadobian

    Verizon set up a separate bill and hit me with a reoccurring $35 charge for “games”. Nothing else on the bill. Which, btw I never authorized. Single, no kids anywhere and middle-aged. They would not remove it or stop the billing. They sent it to collections & hit my credit report. I consider it blackmail that I had to pay this off to stop the collection calls “for this small amount”. This is corporate “Consumer Extortion”. I ceased using any Verizon service after this episode. Its their 21st Century version of “slamming” and somebody over there is getting bonused on “value-added products” – mark my words. Nice job FCC.

  • bringbackrocky

    Years ago, I disputed a $7.00 charge with Verizon and – instead of trying to resolve it with me – they put me into collections and I ended up with it showing up on my credit report. So nothing surprises me about Verizon, particularly since they show up repeatedly on lists of companies with the worst customer service.