How do you not pay for calls you didn't make on your unreported stolen cell phone?
July 5, 2007 9:14 AM   Subscribe

My friend lost his cell phone last week at Great Adventure. He didn't listen to me and didn't report it to T-Mobile. Now he has a $700 bill due to someone making calls with his cell to the UK everyday. Is he screwed?

Is there ANY WAY he can not pay for these calls? He has no job. He does however have a record of the phone #'s that were made with his phone. Is it worth it for him to try to play detective? Would the police even be able to help? Is there any way to negotiate with T-Mobile to not charge him this fee (e.g. promise to have a contract with them for the next X number of years)? Please help; he is pretty desperate!
posted by pinksoftsoap to Technology (11 answers total)
Well, if he hasn't already reported the phone as stolen, he needs to block international calling. You can do so for free when you login to your account on the T-Mobile website.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:15 AM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Are the numbers starting in +44 (0) 7 or +44 (0) something else?
posted by tomw at 9:16 AM on July 5, 2007

Response by poster: Yes, it's already been reported as stolen (that's how he found out about the bill).
posted by pinksoftsoap at 9:17 AM on July 5, 2007

Why didn't he report it to T-Mobile days ago? They had to pay for those international calls because of your friend's negligence and no fault of their own. I doubt they will be sympathetic to requests for negotiation. If your friend doesn't pay it will affect his credit, and they could always sue him or pass the debt to a collector who can do the same. I'd pay up if possible.

He can try to recover the money from the thief if he finds him, but I think this would be exceedingly difficult to the point of not even being worth trying. Look at how much trouble some guy went to in order to recover a stolen sidekick. Eventually it was retrieved, but he had much better evidence of the theft than you will, and it was a lot of work.
posted by grouse at 9:32 AM on July 5, 2007

He can try asking T-Mobile customer service if they will give him a break on the bill, at worst they'll say no. It's worth trying; when the finder of my SO's lost phone placed $600 in calls to Taiwan, his cell phone company (Verizon) knocked off 50% of the bill when I nicely asked if they could do anything to help and another 10% when I asked for a little more. I think I could have gotten more knocked off had my SO not waited nearly a week to tell me he had lost his phone.

I suspect some of the things that helped out were a) we had had the account for some time and had always paid the bill promptly, b) that phone had never before placed an out-of-country call, c) i got lucky in landing a custserv rep who was quite sympathetic to the ups and downs of living with absent-minded husbands, d) I was really really nice on the phone. Not pushy, not demanding, just expressing my dismay over the bill, totally owning up to the fault as being ours for having lost the phone and not reporting it immediately and politely asking if there was anything she could do for me.
posted by jamaro at 9:39 AM on July 5, 2007

While I wouldn't be too optimistic, jamaro is right in that asking can't hurt.
posted by grouse at 9:50 AM on July 5, 2007

I had someone break into my car and steal my Sprint phone while I was out of the country. By the time I returned, there were about $60 in internet usage charges and $15 in game purchases. (I've gt the gut feeling that in order to download $15 in games, they expected me to pay $60 for downloads) Anyways, I called Sprint, explained the situation to them, and they canceled all charges.

In fact, it turned out that some of the games had monthly subscriptions that I didn't know about until the next month. I called, and they canceled those charges too.

I may have been helped by the fact that I've never used any data services or purchased any games, so the behavior was clearly atypical. I got all this simply by calling and asking. Though when I called, I started with the assumption that they would cancel the charges -- to me, it feels the same as unauthorized charges on a stolen credit card. Of course, in reality, the two are quite different, so the company may have some choice of what to do.
posted by bsdfish at 9:51 AM on July 5, 2007

2nding jamaro ... ask very nicely.

I had problems with Verizon, hated them outright as the prototypical uncaring big business, but when my daughter lost her cell after enough buttering-up they turned very kind and helpful and wiped out a lot of the cost. I'd almost even recommend Verizon as a carrier now!
posted by anadem at 9:54 AM on July 5, 2007

A friend lost her phone unknowingly (realized she didn't have her phone with her during a trip, falsely remembered leaving it on the table at home, turned out she'd lost it/had it stolen in the airport.)

Anyway, despite not being promptly reported, they cut her a huge break on the cell phone bill. Call and ask, like jamaro said.
posted by desuetude at 9:57 AM on July 5, 2007

Do remember, however, that cellphone companies make a lot of money from selling insurance which in most cases covers the cost of unauthorised calls (if reported to the police and provider within 48 hours). They may just say "well, that's why we offer optional insurance".

It's worth a try but don't expect too much..
posted by TheAspiringCatapult at 10:09 AM on July 5, 2007

at the very least they should work with him to set up a payment plan so it won't affect his credit.
posted by wayward vagabond at 11:19 AM on July 5, 2007

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