Thief racks up $13,000 on woman's iPhone; Verizon says she has to pay it

ByMichael Finney and Renee Koury via KGO logo
Thursday, September 8, 2022
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The Verizon bill shows pages and pages of calls to places like Croatia, Lithuania, Serbia and Tunisia. The thieves somehow racked up 7,700 minutes of calls over three days, even though there are only 4,320 minutes in three days!

SAN RAMON, Calif. (KGO) -- If you've been traveling, you know you must guard your iPhones - thieves are looking for them. A Bay Area family knew this, but still fell victim.

A San Ramon family of five went to Italy. On their second day, mom's iPhone got stolen on a train. And the thieves racked up thousands of dollars in phone bills - on top of that, Verizon said they had to pay for it.

"We knew we have to be careful, so my wife was reminding my kids, 'hey watch out for your phones...'" said Ashish Singhal of San Ramon.

Singhal and his family were visiting Rome this summer, when it happened on a crowded subway train.

A man bumped into Singhal's wife.

"She kind of looked up this way, and her purse was on this side. And I think just at that moment..." he said.

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They hopped off the train, mom's iPhone was gone.

So was the thief.

"And there's nothing you can do, the train is gone," he said.

Singhal quickly used the "Find My iPhone" feature to wipe the phone clean. He checked his Verizon account online: not a single charge.

"So we said OK, the phone is locked... wiped clean, and no activity," Singhal said.

So he figured it was safe.

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It wasn't.

"When I got the bill, it was 7,700 minutes of calls," he said.

Singhal came home to a stunning bill from Verizon - totaling more than $13,000.

"Thousands of calls to Lithuania, Tunisia, all these countries," Singhal said.

The bill shows pages and pages of calls to places like Croatia, Lithuania, Serbia and Tunisia. The thieves somehow racked up 7,700 minutes of calls over three days, even though there are only 4,320 minutes in three days!

"I have no idea how you even do that," Singhal said.

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Singhal told Verizon the phone had been stolen. The thieves made all those calls. Verizon said he had to pay for them anyway.

"'This is a legitimate charge... this will have to be paid... until we are told that it's stolen and we disable it, we consider every call made from your phone as a legit call,'" Verizon said, according to Singhal.

But Singhal said Verizon should have detected the flood of unusual calls -- and alerted him.

"This seems completely unreasonable, illogical and it's hard to fathom," he said. "Clearly we are not doing those."

Also he worries that his name is now connected to calls that may have criminal ties.

Singhal contacted 7 On Your Side. We asked Verizon what to do if a phone is stolen overseas. Verizon didn't offer a solution, but said:

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"Whenever a case of theft or fraud is brought to our attention, we work quickly to identify and stop the illegal activity and find reasonable solutions..."

However, Verizon did reverse all those charges.

"I mean, it's a big relief," Singhal said. "Thank you for helping us with that."

If your phone is stolen overseas, Verizon's website says call the 1-800 number listed there, or go online to report it no matter where you are in the world. It's important to disable the phone service.

For Verizon's page on what to do if your phone is broken, lost, or stolen overseas, visit this link.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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