Consumer Alert: web bill nightmare - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Consumer Alert: web bill nightmare

$24,000 bill shocks Internet user (Source: WOIO) $24,000 bill shocks Internet user (Source: WOIO)

A senior citizen living on social security got a phone bill from AT&T for $24,000.

Now, 83-year-old Ronald Dorff says he's afraid to use his dial-up Internet after that sticker shock.

"I started to hit the panic button," said Dorff.

He says he first contacted the company in April after his monthly bill increased from $51 to $8,431.

Dorff says he was told a technician would be sent to his home to fix the problem, but no one came.

As a result, he says, he assumed everything was fine. But it wasn't.

The next bill Dorff received with fees included totaled $24,298.

The amount, he says, is more than a year's worth of Social Security checks he depends on.


"If they're going to insist on me to pay the bill, my financial stability is gone," said Dorff, who explained that he contacted AT&T again and spoke with several different people.

This time, he says, a technician arrived and determined that his modem had been dialing a long distance number for hours on end, racking up hefty charges.

But Dorff says the company refused to budge.

"I said, ‘Is it gonna make an adjustment on my bill?' She says, ‘No.'" Dorff explained.

Outraged and alarmed, Dorff decided to share his story with the media.

He says that's when AT&T finally gave him the answer he was hoping for.

"We have waived the charges and explained to him how to use a local number to reach his service," the company said in a statement.

Dorff says he's relieved but wonders if other customers are dealing with a similar shock.

"And I'm sure they're in the same situation I was. ‘What do I do? Where do I go?' ” he said.

When asked why the high fees had not been spotted and resolved earlier, AT&T said this is a "rare occurrence" they address on an individual basis.

This could easily happen to anyone with internet service. It's called modem hijacking where you get tricked into inadvertently downloading a web dialer. In addition to your Internet provider, here are some resources to report any problems:

Click here for more information from the FCC on modem redialing.

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