"I downloaded the movie and they billed me for $62,000," he said. After contesting the charge, the carrier reduced the fee – but it was still a painful $17,000.
A Chicago Bear's fan to the core, Wayne Burdick of Schaumburg, Ill., just had to cheer on his team -- even while on a Caribbean cruise.
So using his laptop, a wireless card and Slingbox device that let him watch the game via an Internet connection, he tuned into watch the Bears battle the Detroit Lions.
But after a nice relaxing vacation, he returned home to a $27,000 bill from AT&T.
"When I originally got the bill… I was counting on the fact that it was fraud," he said.
But, charging him by the kilobyte, at the international rate, the company said he was roaming for the three hours it took to watch the game.
Burdick dug up the documentation to prove that he was not at sea but actually in port at Miami when he was watching the game, but the company stood firm. Even after Burdick pled his case to 14 different employees, they would only reduce the bill to $6,000.
Finally, after the Chicago Sun-Times ran his story and brought his case up with AT&T, the company dropped the charges.
And, Burdick said, the fiasco was worth at least something -- the Bears won the game.
Gregg Christoffersen called it a "heart attack in an envelope."
When he saw the bill his 13-year-old daughter Dena had racked up by text messaging her friends, the Cheyenne, Wyoming, man was stunned.
In just one month, she sent and received enough text messages to justify (at least to the cell phone company) a nearly $4,800 bill.
"It was heart-stopping. It just so unreal," he said.
Verizon Wireless first gave his wife the news over the phone and when he first found out he said he was speechless. He and his wife suspended their daughter's cell phone privileges and grounded her for a year. But Christoffersen didn't stop there.
"I took a hammer to the phone," he said. Smashed to smithereens, he returned the phone to his daughter in a bag.
Christoffersen said he and his family had a text-less plan with Qwest Communications but when the company merged with Verizon earlier this year, unbeknownst to him, the ability to text was activated.
He and his wife had no idea their family's phones could send and receive text messages. But their daughter figured it out and quietly sent about 288 messages a day.
Verizon shut down their service for two days until they paid $300. At one point, Christoffersen wondered if he'd need to take out a bank loan to pay the bill. But after weeks of negotiating with an ally at Verizon, they were able to lower the bill to a far more manageable $120.
So, all's well that ends well. Except perhaps for Dena. Her father said that when they do get her a new phone, the text function will be the first to go.
In 2007, a 22-year-old Canadian oil-field worker reportedly faced an astronomical $83,700 cell phone bill. Piotr Staniaszek, who lived in rural Alberta, made headlines when his father brought his story to the media.
According to Staniaszek's father, who shares his name, the man thought he could use his phone as a modem for his computer. Thinking his unlimited browser plan with Bell Mobility (a division of Bell Canada) could handle it, he downloaded movies and other high-resolution files.