Dear ABC News Fixer: Verizon's $10K-Plus Phantom Billing

PHOTO: A Verizon Wireless store in San Francisco, Calif. is shown in this Feb. 10, 2011 file photo.Ryan Anson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A Verizon Wireless store in San Francisco, Calif. is shown in this Feb. 10, 2011 file photo.

Dear ABC News Fixer: I work at a private law firm which also acts as the Office of the City Attorney for the City of Sarasota, Fla. Our problems began back in December 2011, when we attempted to change from our current phone set-up to a more complex PRI line, following the advice of a Verizon sales rep.

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The attempt to install this was unsuccessful due to technical reasons. We told them we were no longer interested in trying to make this conversion; instead we would keep the T1 line we currently had.

Since we were never connected to this service, we all assumed that would be the end of it.

However, the Verizon billing office continued to bill us monthly for this line. Our part-time bookkeeper paid the invoices, along with our regular monthly bill of $811.69. The incorrect bills were for just over $900 per month.

Unfortunately, we did not catch this error and continued to pay these incorrect charges for a year, from January through December 2012. We now realize we have paid Verizon $11,836.30 for service that was never actually in effect.

We have called, sent emails and written to Verizon about receiving a credit or refund, all to no avail. We got them to deactivate the account, but haven't gotten a response about a refund or credit. We would really appreciate some help.

- Lillie Fournier, Sarasota, Fla.

Dear Lillie: This seemed like a relatively simple problem, despite the huge price tag. You didn't get the service, so you shouldn't have to pay for it. Easy-peasy.

But you told the ABC News Fixer you'd had a dizzying time dealing with various departments here and overseas, and several months later you still had no refund.

Well, put away the Dramamine because we finally got this fixed.

We took your concerns to Verizon and it turns out that for whatever reason, the billing folks didn't get the memo that the service never existed. It took a while to straighten this out, and the numbers jumped around a bit from your original tally, but Verizon finally calculated all the payments, taxes and surcharges you paid and has issued a credit of $13,949.62 to your current account. That'll cover well over a year's worth of phone service.

Company spokesman Bob Elek said he's sorry you had to go through this hassle.

Your problem with Verizon involved confusion over invoices from a real company that your law firm had a relationship with, but it gives the ABC News Fixer a chance to remind all small business owners that unlike this one, some invoice problems could actually be outright scams.

In these schemes, the business get what appears to be a bill for office supplies or services, and the accounts clerk pays it without ever realizing it was either fake or just a solicitation. These scams thrive by billing relatively small amounts of money, which won't be detected by the boss.

Small business owners can save a lot of headaches by making sure that the employee whose job it is to pay the bills keeps good documentation of all orders, purchases and bill payments.

- The ABC News Fixer

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