7OYS: T-Mobile charges customer fees from stolen cell phone

(WJLA) - T-Mobile had a hit with its Tim Tebow Super Bowl commercial – but it was the hit the mobile company tried to put on Francesca Caretto’s wallet that got the attention of 7 On Your Side.

"It was complete shock and panic," she says.

Caretto’s daughter Katerina is a volunteer teacher at a woman’s college in Bangladesh. Her cell phone was tucked away in a drawer just in case of an emergency, and turned off – or so she thought.

The phone ended up being stolen in mid-January, and for 20 days, the thief racked up roaming charges.

Caretto’s first sign of trouble on the other side of the globe? An astronomical phone bill.

"It was over $10,000," she says.

By the time Caretto discovered the problem, she owed not only $10,874, but a whopping total of $14,400. T-Mobile offered to reduce the bill by $1,300, but said Caretto still had to pay the rest. So she called 7 On Your Side.

We saved Caretto more than $14,000, as T-Mobile ultimately wiped out the stomach-turning charges, saying:

"Account holders are typically notified of high balance situations as quickly as possible so that they can choose to suspend their line before charges escalate."

"I'm sure everyone can imagine how relieved I am," says Caretto. "There's no one at T-Mobile or in my life that isn't completely shocked at $14,400 in roaming fees and them not notifying me."

T-Mobile spokesman Glenn Zaccara has released a statement providing the following tips on what to do in order to prevent this kind of situation:

"T-Mobile has worked closely with our customer and we have removed any responsibility for international charges. Account holders are typically notified of high balance situations as quickly as possible so that they can choose to suspend their line before charges escalate."

Customer / Consumer Tips

Customers should immediately report a lost or stolen mobile device, especially when the device is lost or stolen while traveling internationally. When a customer reports a device as lost or stolen, T-Mobile provides numerous options, including suspending, and even completely deactivating, service immediately.

If a device is reported as stolen, T-Mobile will deactivate it and enter it into the GSMA Global Database where we list devices as reported stolen by our customers, with the goal of preventing their use on another GSM carrier’s network. Until a phone is reported as lost or stolen, charges related to calls made by that phone are the responsibility of the owner.

• Immediately report a lost or stolen phone. T-Mobile customers should familiarize themselves with steps outlined on our website:
• Find and use applications that are designed to lock, locate, and wipe devices remotely.
• Most mobile devices have basic locking functionality (user-defined codes or patterns), which are the first line of defense against unauthorized use or access.
• Consider setting a “SIM PIN” code to lock your SIM card so it cannot be used with another device without your own pre-established unlock code. You will need to enter your SIM PIN each time you restart your device, bringing an added layer of security. Steps to set up a SIM PIN vary based on device, so be sure to check your device manual or contact customer service for more information about how to do this.