Reporting Kurtis Ming
A Sacramento woman went on a trip of a lifetime but later got hit with the biggest cell phone bill of her life. When she couldn’t get the charges dropped, she called Kurtis.
We’ve heard the nightmare stories before – huge cell phone bills when traveling abroad or on a cruise. But she says her phone was off!
“I was going to throw up. How can this be?” asked Maria Francis.
Hit with $1558.95 in roaming charges for data after Maria cruised the Mediterranean in May with her husband.
“It’s a celebration of life,” said Maria.
A celebration for just beating breast cancer.
She says before they left for Europe, two Verizon store employees assured them, her smart phone wouldn’t work.
During the 12-day cruise, Maria insists she never used her phone.
“I did not, honestly, did not turn on that phone. I would put a Bible, my hand on a Bible and swear that I did not do that,” said Maria.
After getting back in the States, Maria says she turned on her phone, getting text messages from Verizon, warning her of roaming charges.
“I just couldn’t even believe that a phone that they told me wouldn’t work, could actually apparently work for roaming,” said Maria.
“It shouldn’t happen. If your phone is turned off, there is no way you’re really pinging the network,” said Jessica Dolcourt, a CNET senior editor.
Dolcourt says Maria must have accidentally turned on her phone at some point, connecting to the cruise ship’s cell tower, which charges you much higher rates.
“What happens the second you turn your phone on, all of those, especially with an Android, apps in the background, emails, all loading, all pinging the network, getting your texts, everything is happening and you can’t stop that,” said Dolcourt.
We reached out to Verizon. In an email, they tell us they’re “not sure what happened, but if the phone was turned on while the customer was charging it (or at any time), the device would have automatically pinged the network… which would result in data roaming charges,” according to Heidi Flato with Verizon public relations.
Full Verizon Statement
After we got involved, Maria says Verizon called them agreeing to drop the $1558.95 bill.
“I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned never take your phone to Europe,” said Maria.
If you want to use WiFi while traveling, you still can but you have to turn off data roaming in your phone’s settings.
That way, you won’t accrue outrageous roaming charges, like Maria did.
Also, before going on a cruise, call your carrier and tell them the specific cruise ship and location. They should be able to tell you exactly how much it’ll cost to use your phone.