A little while ago, I got a really sweet deal on a used smartphone off eBay. It had a crack running through a corner of it and was a lower-range model to begin with (though the specs were fine). I buy most of my smartphones off eBay, and there have rarely been problems. I’d recommend it, generally. This post is not one an “I got ripped off by eBay posts”.

However, this purchase started off on an odd foot. The seller had not reset the device, so after booting up the phone, I was locked out of it. Not a big deal as I could reset the device myself. After that, I set the phone aside to take a look at when I got the time. When I picked the phone up again a week later, I learned that not only had the device not been reset, it hadn’t been deactivated. It was still receiving text messages and calls.

I did my part. I contacted my carrier to inform them that somebody out there (at [phone number]) was still being charged for a voice and data plan that they weren’t using. I was informed that unless the account-holder called, there was nothing I could do. (They also informed me that I couldn’t activate my new/used phone until it had been deactivated by the accountholder of the number it was assigned to.) I also found the email address of the original owner of the phone. I wrote them an email explaining the situation and that they needed to contact the carrier to cancel their coverage.

To which I got a six word response: “Who are you? Leave me alone.” I started to respond, but then realized that I was merely repeating what I’d said in my last email. The end result of all of this being that some girl or woman in the rust belt is going to be continually charged for a wireless phoneline that she isn’t using. She’ll probably be wondering why they are contacting her since she dispatched the phone and that obviously terminates the account right? At some point, debt collectors will be involved. Her current balance is over $1,000 in payment due.

Meanwhile, I have a smartphone that I can’t really use yet. Actually, I could use it as a separate phone line if I were so inclined. But I have a phone. I bought this for backup purposes in case I lost my phone. I assume that service will indeed be cut off at some point. Hopefully before I need this one. The next-to-last text message said that I needed to contact the carrier within 24 hours. That was over 24 hours ago, and I just got a text message from an irate friend wondering why he or she is being ignored.

It’s actually somewhat amazing to me that I have never actually lost a cell phone. I ran over one, once. I crushed one under an exercise bike. (By the way, never insure your smartphone. Trust me.) I have misplaced my phone on a couple of occasions, but I was quick to realize it was gone and recovered it.

Of course, I don’t know if she lost this phone, whether it was stolen*, or whether she just sold it. The bigger issue is that upon the dispatching or disappearance of the phone, she didn’t get it replaced or cancel the account. This is actually the sort of thing that I am bad at when it comes to wallets. I wait a week or two for it to pop up. I keep an eye on my credit card usage, and then if it hasn’t popped up I start making the calls.

I get the sense that there is no such deliberate process involved with the original owner of this phone. That she is like the guy who thinks that since his car was repossessed that his relationship with the creditors was terminated. These are the sorts of things that genuinely depress me. We live in an increasingly complicated world. The deck is enormously stacked against those who aren’t equipped for it.

* – A lot of people are under the impression that used phones are always stolen. I’ve actually never bought into this. As people continually upgrade or replace their phones, the old phones have to go somewhere. In any event, the girl in question had an opportunity to declare it stolen. She didn’t. My conscience is clean.

Category: Market

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4 Responses to You Have Reached A Number Still In Service

  1. Peter says:

    I’m very surprised that a cell phone provider would let an unpaid balance go to $1,000 without having cut off service.

  2. trumwill says:

    Me, too! It honestly makes me worry a bit that they will let it reach $2,000. They seem to have cut off data on it, so maybe the whole enchilada isn’t far behind.

    Back when I was working for CignalTV, I did see accounts that were more than $500 in the hole and still had their account with all of the premium channels. It was pretty shocking to me, at the time. I thought if you didn’t pay your bill they’d cut you off after a month.

  3. superdestroyer says:

    I must be old fashion. When the phone is sold, why didn’t see take the SIM card out or is it a Verizon phone that does not use a SIM card?

  4. trumwill says:

    Verizon doesn’t use SIM cards in the same way that AT&T does. They have them for LTE 4G, but that’s it.

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