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Got the Bogus Bill Blues?

Hit with an unexpected—or bogus—bill? Follow these tips to avoid taking a big hit. 

You flinch when you get hit with an unexpected bill, don’t you? Especially when its raised even higher by penalties and even worse, what if it’s for something you didn’t even do? 

Before the holidays, I got an iPhone so I could show-off WeSeed’s app to partners and anyone I came into contact with. So I called an AT&T rep, activated the phone, switched to my old phone number, and even paid my first month’s bill … or so I thought. (Thankfully, I took notes of our conversation and kept a confirmation number.) 

And then last week, out of the blue, I received a notice from a collections agency saying I owed $243. 

“What?” I thought. “This must be an error.” 

I called AT&T and the representative was quite helpful. And after taking her through the history and double-checking everything along the way, I followed my own advice for reducing an unexpected bill or cost: “Is there anything you can do with the bill?” I asked, hoping I wouldn’t get hit with the $33 service fee on the collections notice. 

As I suspected, there was. Within minutes, that $243, which I would’ve paid had I simply responded to the collection agency, was reduced by a whopping $153. 

Here’s what to do if you’re hit with a bill that you think is unfair or wrong: 

  • Don’t assume it’s your mistake. Keep notes of conversations, confirmation numbers, etc. 
  • Always ask if there’s anything they can do to reduce the bill. In the majority of cases, there is. Why are they likely to work with you? Because they’d rather keep a paying customer than lose one. If you’re in real financial dire straits, they’re likely to work with you because receiving part of the money you owe is better than receiving nothing at all. 

My rep said that there’s a connection fee charged when any new phone number is put into effect. After a little more checking, she said I may have been charged twice—once for the number that came with my iPhone and then again for transferring it to my existing cell number. The savings: $30. 

  • If you’re not getting any movement from the rep on the phone, ask for a supervisor. A rep is generally allowed to offer bill reductions up to a certain amount or perhaps none at all, depending on the creditor. The supervisor is more tied in with customer satisfaction, so he or she might be more likely to help you out. 
  • If your issue is with a phone bill, double-check the plan you’re using. There might be an alternative plan that would save you more. If so, ask the rep if they’ll back date it and credit your account. 

My agent had also suggesting she might be able to reduce my bill “grandfathering” the plan I later implemented. Additional savings: $60. 

So by simply picking up the phone, staying calm and friendly, and knowing my facts, I was able to reduce that $243 bill from the collections agency to just $90. I hope this helps you and your family do the same in this economy. 

By Jennifer Openshaw, co-founder and president of WeSeed

Photo courtesy of WeSeed