Verizon charges dead man for phone service

Posted 10 March 2010 22:00 CEST by Jared Newman

A death certificate wasn’t enough to convince Verizon’s customer service to stop billing a dead man.

Bill Young of Calvin, W. Va., passed away in June 2009, but Verizon continued to bill him until February 2010, and refused to stop without his Personal Identification Number, the St. Petersburg Times reports. In lieu of that information, Young’s daughter Cynthia Lacy furnished a death certificate, which Verizon would not accept.

“”Well, there’s nothing else I can do for you,” a representative reportedly said over the phone, before laughing and hanging up.

As if the billing of a dead man wasn’t bad enough in its own right, Lacy needed to cancel Young’s phone bill to allow new owners to move into his house. That way, she could finally settle his estate.

After several failed attempts to sway Verizon, Lacy reached out to the Times’ Consumer’s Edge column. Only then did a company spokesman, Bob Elek, admit that Verizon was wrong. Elek told the Times that the customer representative who scoffed at Lacy was reprimanded and given coaching. Young’s account was closed and Lacy was credited for bill payments back to September.

Consumer’s Edge suggests a precaution to avoid this sort of scenario: Write down all your important electronic passwords, and store them in a safe deposit box that your entire family can access. Or, use an online service, such as Legacy Locker. Huffington Post recommends a few more: AssetLock, Deathswitch and Slightly Morbid. Or maybe you could encode the information on your tombstone.

While those measures will surely result in fewer headaches for families of the deceased, Verizon’s got to shoulder some of the blame here. When someone calls you, death certificate in hand, asking to cancel an account, I’m guessing it’s a rare enough occurrence to escalate the matter to a supervisor, and not to laugh and hang up the phone.


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