Our Cell Phone Company Is Scamming Us

A couple of months ago, I opened our AT&T wireless bill to see quite a surprise. We unfortunately had gone over our minutes and incurred about $30 in additional fees. How could we have gone over our minutes? We always had minutes left over at the end of the month and we didn’t change our phone habits. Actually, we had over 300 minutes left in rollover minutes that month! What happened?

Too Many Minutes

The Mystery Unknown Callers

Upon further inspection of the bill, I noticed a few items (that used quite a few minutes) that looked like we called ourselves. In other words, if our phone number was 410-555-1212, it showed that we had an incoming call from 410-555-1212. What the hell? How can we call ourselves and talk for that long? Curious, I called AT&T wireless and this is the response that they gave me:

“I’m sorry that you went over your minutes this month sir. Unfortunately, when our system cannot recognize a phone number that calls you, we list it as if you called yourself. Also, those phone calls use up your anytime minutes because we do not know if they are AT&T customers or not.”

So, even if the other caller was an AT&T customer (which I could talk to for FREE), I get screwed because their “system” cannot recognize the number? How can they do that? I know for a fact that some of those phone calls were to my financee who has AT&T (actually, she is on my account). How can they recognize the number one day and not the next? 

I started to get pretty peeved at the whole situation and started pleeding my case. Unfortunately, “there was nothing that they could do for me”. I had no proof that shows I called her at those times. In the end I just gritted my teeth and paid the bill.

Since the infamous bill, we have started using our house phone more for calling people not in our wireless network. So far it has worked wonders and we have a surplus of 900 rollover minutes. 

Anyone have any wireless phone bill stories? 


My name is Adam and I am in debt. Yep, I came out and said it in the first sentence. I hope that shows you how passionate I am about getting out of debt and enjoying life in the process. Join my wife and me on our journey and be sure to contribute to the great discussions. You can get FREE email updates about the site as soon as they are posted. If you would like to hear our whole story, visit my about page. Thanks for visiting!

12 Responses to Our Cell Phone Company Is Scamming Us
  1. Bible Money Matters
    May 13, 2009 | 3:34 PM

    We use Virgin Mobile so that we don’t run into situations like this. We just prepay some minutes, whenever we reach $5 in our account, and it works out great. We end up paying about $5-10/month for our cell service!

    Bible Money Matters’s last blog post..If You Were Strapped For Cash, How Far Would You Go To Make Money?

  2. Adam
    May 13, 2009 | 3:46 PM

    @BMM – I have been thinking about this for quite awhile. Since we really only use the house phone now, it would probably save us around $90 a month if we switched. However, we have three phones on the wireless account that all have contracts on them. That would be pretty pricey if I were to cancel them all.

    Has anyone had any success negotiating lower cancellation fees for cell phone contracts?

  3. Tim Hawkins
    May 13, 2009 | 4:28 PM

    Did you ask your cell phone provider if they could block calls like that? Did you determine the source of those calls based on the date/time? Can you see that information on their website, so maybe you could check you call details every day until it happened again? The key here is; are the calls valid or not?

  4. Adam
    May 13, 2009 | 5:28 PM

    @Tim – I think the calls are valid because I think some of them were between myself and my fiancee. I don’t really have a need for them to block them or check them everyday as it is a non-issue now that we are using the house phone more. If we ever get rid of the house phone, I may have to revisit some of your thoughts. Thanks for the comment and stopping by!

  5. Yana
    May 13, 2009 | 7:15 PM

    I never went over my minutes in my 12 years with Verizon contract service, but ended the relationship when they refused to provide me with a working phone after I signed a new 2-year contract. They did try, but the phones did not work in my home as they had before for all those years. When they sent me 1/2 a phone without a battery, I decided it was time to abandon ship. They charged me a termination fee which I didn’t pay, and I’m not feeling very friendly toward them. However, AT&T’s network is why I have no interest in an iPhone. The plain truth is that Verizon has the best USA network. I solved this dilemma by going to PagePlus cellular and buying a new phone on eBay. I have been so thrilled with the prepaid service that my husband got a phone identical to mine on eBay, and we hope to stay with this company permanently. We actually have 3 prepaid phones (the 3rd on Sti Mobile) that cost us about $27-$36/monthly for all of them. We like our main phones better than digital cameras for taking pictures. We buy our airtime at BabbleBug (for PagePlus) and CheapPhoneCards (for STi) and do activations through UglyEric. Howard Forums is a good source for cell phone info, some of which is highly valuable.

  6. Adam
    May 13, 2009 | 7:51 PM

    @Yana – Thanks for all of the great info! If I ever go over to a prepaid phone, I have a lot of companies to decipher. Isn’t it strange how “new” things (such as your phone) just aren’t built the way the used to be? I bet your old phone was a Nokia “candy bar” phone that you had for several years. Those seemed to last the longest and had the best reception. Why can’t they make things like that anymore?

  7. Kosmo @ The Casual Observer
    May 14, 2009 | 9:52 AM

    I must be missing something.

    You had some rollover minutes, but they didn’t charge these mystery calls to the rollover minutes, and instead charged an overage? Or the mystery calls completed depleted your anytime minutes, then depleted the rollover minutes, and then resulted in an overage?

    This seems very strange. Did you ask to speak with the retention department? It seems more logical that if they aren’t sure about a call, they should err in favor of the customer. The FTC might have an interest.

    If some of these calls were coming from other cell phones, they should appear on the other person’s phone bill, which you should be able to use as proof of origin. You shouldn’t have to jump through these hoops, of course.

    We have had AT&T for about 6 months, and nothing weird has occurred yet. Honestly, my best overall experience was US Cellular, but AT&T had a lower cost for our plan.

    I’ve had problems with Verizon landline and Verizon wireless and refuse to do business with that organization. When I encountered the problems (around 2000) it was pertty obvious that that had no method of tracking a problem and routing it to the correct area. One of my worst customer experiences ever.

    Kosmo @ The Casual Observer’s last blog post..Dan Brown profile

  8. Adam
    May 14, 2009 | 10:07 AM

    @Kosmo – It actually depleted our anytime (450 minutes) and our rollover over a two month span. I just didn’t catch it until the second month. Since it was only a $30 overage charge I just don’t see the point in pushing this further. Now if it were a $100 overage it would be a different story.

    I just couldn’t understand how they could not recognize the number when even my phone can recognize it. It just seemed a little fishy.

  9. George
    June 7, 2009 | 9:44 PM

    Welcome to att , that is the worst company to deal with, i used to have the same problem i used to have 1000 minutes free nights and weekend and every month i went over my minutes even when i went overseas for 3 weeks and left the phone in the US.
    just change companies now. i have tmobile flex acount for 49 i have 600 plus my five, internet and text i just pay in advance .no contract
    the customer service is alot better than those thiefs from att. just pay the charge for the contract termination and you will save that money in 2 or 3 months

  10. Tom - kitchener blackberry repair
    August 11, 2012 | 12:23 PM

    I can certainly relate to the experience that you had with AT&T. That is why I switched to a different plan! It didn’t take long for me to realize that my chain was being jerked around. Thank you for having this information publicly accessible. Hopefully others will read this and help themselves.

  1. Weekly Mashup, Apple Pie Edition | My Life ROI, Getting the Best Return On Life
  2. Carnival of Money Stories: May Two-Four Edition | Prime Time Money
Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL http://www.moneyrelationship.com/shopping/our-cell-phone-company-is-scamming-us/trackback/
Join The Fun For $0.00!