Read my AT&T/eBay/iPhone horror story!

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Crash Override

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Aug 9, 2007
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#1
Read my AT&T/eBay/iPhone horror story! UPDATED!

Any similar experiences or advice? This is a copy of the letter I sent to the Better Business Bureau:
I got married in June of 2007. At the time I was a T-mobile customer. In late July, I purchased an iPhone from an eBay seller for $609.99, using my Paypal account which draws directly from my checking account. I activated the phone by adding myself to my wife's AT&T account, consisting of her phone, two phones for her children, and now my iPhone. For the first month (August), there was no problem. However, in September, our bill showed a charge for $648.00. I called AT&T and was told this was the purchase price for the iPhone I had added to the account. I spoke to a representative named Tonya Cressell. She was very apologetic and told me this should not have happened, as I purchased the phone somewhere else. She said an agent from the fraud department would contact me by September 5th. I never received a call from anyone on the 5th. On the 6th, I called the fraud department (866-505-3988), and was told not to pay the $648.00, as the case was still being investigated. We paid the remainder of the monthly charges.
The following month's bill still showed the $648.00 fee for purchase of an iPhone, so I called AT&T again. I was again told that the fraud team was still looking into the problem and would call me back. In the meantime, I filed a report with PayPal, but got an automated response that the sale was over 45 days old and thereforee they could not help solve the problem.
Again in October and November, I called AT&T and was told that the case was still under investigation by their fraud department and not to worry. We continued to pay our monthly AT&T bill, minus the $648.00.
On Tuesday, December 4th (less than a week since my last phone call to AT&T) our phone service was suspended. I called AT&T to see what was needed to rectify the issue. I was told to "Pay the outstanding balance on your account, and we will reactivate your service". I tried to explain the situation and was transferred to a supervisor at my request. The supervisor, Clint Barton told me point blank "The only way you're getting your phones back on is to pay the balance due". He offered me an option to pay around $447.00 that would turn the phones back on for a few days. I tried to explain to him that the fraud department was supposedly investigating this issue and he told me that the fraud department would only be involved if the account was opened fraudulently, and the purchase of the phone would not be an issue for the fraud department. He then told me that he had experienced a similar problem and his bank was able to get him a refund on his purchase. I relented, and paid the $648.40 in order to get the phones working again.
I then tried contacting PayPal and my bank again. My bank told me that as long as I received the item I purchased, it was out of their hands. Paypal again told me they could not do anything 45 days after purchase.
I then tried the AT&T fraud department again. This time I was told that their "investigation" had determined I was responsible for the $648.00 charge for the phone. I asked how they had determined this without ever speaking to me and why no one had ever returned my calls. i was placed on hold and then told they had tried to contact me on my cell # on 11/28 and 11/29. This was a false statement as I had not received any calls from them on either day. (Or any other day). She also explained to me that they hand all the fraud investigations over to Apple, and Apple had told them to bill me. I asked for a contact number for someone at Apple to discuss the issue with.
I then contacted Apple support and was connected to Lynette (1-800-275-2273 / #40672). I explained the situation to Lynette who immediately tried to contact the AT&T fraud department. While we were holding, Lynette explained to me that according to her records of the serial number on my iPhone, Apple had been paid in full as part of a $3 Million purchase by AT&T. Therefore Apple would not have authorized or advised AT&T to bill me for the phone. (A practice that Lynette said they did not ever do anyway). When she tried to explain this to the AT&T fraud department rep, she was again placed on hold. I stayed on the line with her for well over half an hour until we were disconnected. a call back to the AT&T fraud line verified that they were closed for the day, something they had previously done to me. I explained to Lynette how this wasn't the first time they had simply had me hold and gone home for the day. Now they could bill me for all the minutes I'd wasted on hold as well.
On Wednesday, December 5th, I started over again. I left a message for Lynette with Apple, and tried PayPal again to no avail.
Again, I called AT&T, and spoke to Linda Massenburg. I explained to her what I was told the previous day regarding Apple, and she said Apple's findings had nothing to do with it, and whoever I spoke to before was incorrect. She said I was being billed because I was using a phone I had not paid for. when I tried to explain that I had paid for it via Paypal, she said that was my problem for buying it on eBay, and I should have bought it at an AT&T store. She said "If it's on eBay, it's probably stolen and you should know that". I asked why, instead of going after a paying customer, why didn't they go after the person who had stolen the phones in the first place, she replied "Why don't you!". At this point, I asked for her supervisor and was transferred to Gloria Hardy. Ms. Hardy started the conversation by emphatically declaring there was no way I could get these charges reversed, under any circumstances. I asked her why i was being charged for a phone i had already purchased elsewhere, and was told "because you didn't buy it from AT&T". I asked what would happen if I bought a phone at Wal-Mart and tried to activate it through AT&T. she replied "I don't know about that". I asked her what if someone bought an iPhone from either Apple or AT&T and then gave it to me as a gift, would I be charged for it again? Again, she replied "I don't know".
She also told me that iPhones on eBay were stolen and I should know that. When I asked her how she knew they were stolen, she said "Because AT&T does not sell phones on eBay". I asked her if it were possible that someone could buy an iPhone at an AT&T store and then sell it on eBay. She said "I don't know about that". I asked her if there was some sort of flag in the system that told her my phone was stolen. She said "you didn't pay AT&T for it". I asked her if the person who sold it to me could have legitimately purchased it from an AT&T store before reselling it. She said it was possible, but that wasn't her problem. All she knew was that I had not purchased an iPhone from AT&T, and thereforee owed them $648.40. (Substantially more than the $399.00 they retail for now, by the way).At this point, I realized there was no point in discussing it further with her.
So, the bottom line is I'm now locked into a contract with a wireless carrier I despise, and I've got a $1260.00 phone that cannot be used on any other carrier than AT&T anyway.

UPDATE:
I'm assuming this came about as a result of my email to Mr. DeLaVega. A case manager from AT&T called me yesterday. She apologized profusely and said this was one of the craziest things she had ever heard of AT&T doing to a customer. She vowed to make it right. she took a bunch of info from me and said she would call me back after she had submitted her report. About an hour later, she called back and told me someone would be contacting me in the next 48 hours to process a full refund of the $648.40.
She gave me a direct number to contact her, and told me to call her if the issue wasn't resolved to my satisfaction. she advised me to have a copy of the Paypal statement and/or my bank statement showing where I'd paid for the phone. So after, getting the FCC, BBB, FBI, State Attorney General, and MR. DeLaVega's office involved, it appears we are on the verge of success!
Thanks to everyone on the board for their help and support.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

OJsakila

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Jul 15, 2007
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#2
That totally SUCKS.. I am so sorry you have to deal with robots. I loathe the hell out of these types of idiots with no idea how to delagate authority... They make this world a tough place to live in..... I'd LOVE to slap each one of those below-average humans in the face!

Oh yes, don't buy anymore iPhones off Egay....
 

Tinman

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Jul 16, 2007
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#3
Oh my God. This is insane.

This story should be made public. Call Foxnews, CNN, local news, anyone you can think of.

Also, contact your state's Attorney General and file a complaint against AT&T--it's extortion. Heck, you might be able to file a police report too.

I assume you've verified that the iPhone you bought off eBay wasn't stolen, right? (Though even if it was I don't think AT&T can simply bill you for it.)

EDIT: I hope you recorded the calls. If not you might consider doing so. Just tell whomever you are speaking to that "this call may be recorded for quality assurance." They will likely revolt and tell you can't do that. Politely ask why, then say goodbye if they refuse to talk while being recorded.

Be sure to record the call from "send to end" so you catch any announcement from them about the call being recorded, and you can't be accused of editing the recording.

Call back as many times as needed till you get someone that will still talk to you after being notified the call is being recorded. That evidence, plus all the other calls where it's clear they don't want to be recorded by you--while demanding that you agree to be recorded by them--might go a long way (if needed at all).


--
Mike
 

Swagger

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#4
I have a question and a comment, first the question. Why would you take the chance of what happened to you, buying off of eBay? You stated that you paid 600.00 for the iPhone, that I assume was locked, since you activated with AT&T. You paid full price, so why didn't you just buy it from Apple or AT&T? The comment, this is what happens when two companies (AT&T and Apple) lock you into a deal. When something goes wrong, each company can blame the other, while the consumer is stuck in the middle, basically screwed. Maybe you should try contacting eBay, and see if they can resolve your problem. I feel so bad for you. eBay has a lot of honest seller's, it is also a place for con artist's and thieves. I would suggest, next time you buy at full price, go directly to the source...M
 

Crash Override

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Aug 9, 2007
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#5
I have a question and a comment, first the question. Why would you take the chance of what happened to you, buying off of eBay? You stated that you paid 600.00 for the iPhone, that I assume was locked, since you activated with AT&T. You paid full price, so why didn't you just buy it from Apple or AT&T? The comment, this is what happens when two companies (AT&T and Apple) lock you into a deal. When something goes wrong, each company can blame the other, while the consumer is stuck in the middle, basically screwed. Maybe you should try contacting eBay, and see if they can resolve your problem. I feel so bad for you. eBay has a lot of honest seller's, it is also a place for con artist's and thieves. I would suggest, next time you buy at full price, go directly to the source...M
Well, at the time I felt pretty confident buying on eBay. I've bought lots of things there, and never had a problem. plus with eBay's rules combined with Paypal's buyer protection, I felt safe. The seller had a good feedback rating and was listed as a Power Seller. Sure, I only saved $50.00, which in hindsight wasn't worth the hassle, but at the time seemed like a pretty good deal.
The problem with eBay and Paypal is because by the time AT&T decided to jack me for the phone price, it was beyond the 45 day policy for PayPal to step in. I spoke to someone there who said they should be able to help under the circumstances, but when he escalated the issue it was denied due to the 45 day policy. This seller has sold other iPhones, and gotten good feedback on eBay. Of course, I left him good feedback as well, but it was done before the problem popped up, and it's too late to change the feedback. He also hasn't sold anything since October. I was able to get his parent's phone number and called them today. They offered to pass my contact info to him. hopefully he will call me and we can straighten out how he purchased the phones. Although, I'm sure even if he can prove he paid in full, it will take an act of congress to get any resolution out of AT&T. They were somewhat helpful up until the point i went ahead and paid them the $648.40, at which point they became rude and unwilling to even listen to what I had to say.
I guess my next step, if the seller doesn't contact me, is to file criminal charges against him. I wish I could record all the calls, but I've had to make most of them while at work, due to the fraud department at AT&T's operating hours. That's why I've tried to write down as many names as possible of who I've spoken to.
Thanks for the sympathies and advice from everyone, and for reading my lengthy post.
 

Crash Override

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Aug 9, 2007
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#7
I'd be willing to bet hundreds or even thousands of iPhones were sold on eBay without any problems.
Personally, i sold my almost new Blackberry Pearl, once i got my iPhone, and I assure you the buyer had no problems.
 

Tinman

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Jul 16, 2007
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#8
I guess my next step, if the seller doesn't contact me, is to file criminal charges against him. I wish I could record all the calls, but I've had to make most of them while at work, due to the fraud department at AT&T's operating hours. That's why I've tried to write down as many names as possible of who I've spoken to.
Thanks for the sympathies and advice from everyone, and for reading my lengthy post.
Whoa there. Do you know for a fact that the iPhone was stolen? It doesn't sound like it. Surely AT&T's policy isn't to just say, "oh, this iPhone was stolen, so we'll just bill it out at full price to whomever is using it right now; no need to contact them or the police about it."

You need to find out the IMEI of the iPhone AT&T allegedly "sold you." If it matches the one you bought from Ebay then perhaps you have a case with the seller.

Right now it looks like your issue is with AT&T, unless there is more to the story.

If the IMEI doesn't match yours I would, in the strongest terms possible (without being rude) inform AT&T that you will be filing a complaint with your state's Attorney General, as well as the AG in AT&T's home state (if different from yours). Ask for specifics, as the AG will want that (ask for some kind of company/employeee ID number from each person you speak with, as the names you are given could very well be just a "phone name"). Tell them you will be filing a complaint with your local PD too.

The BBB is about the weakest threat you can make, so don't rely on that.



--
Mike
 

Swagger

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#9
File a complaint with the FCC. Phone companies, wired or wireless hate to deal with the FCC. The FCC complaint also will be read and handled directly by AT&T's CEO. AT&T will most certainly hear your voice, also while you have an open dispute with the FCC against AT&T, you are not responsible for the amount in question until the matter is resolved. Trust me, the FCC is your nest bet to obtain justice in this matter. Make sure that you send AT&T a copy of your FCC complaint along with your bill to show the amount being disputed. Since you already paid them, deduct the 648.00 from the current bill..M
 

williamrob42

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Jul 25, 2007
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#10
What a horrible experience. I really don't believe that just because you bought the phone on Ebay that Ebay or the seller is the problem. Sounds like the problem is with AT&T. They are good at messing up at times. WOW you documented every detail. I would take my details and find me a good lawyer. Sounds like you have a case. At least you could get some of your money back. I am sorry for your horrible experience. But hang in there. :)
 

Crash Override

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Aug 9, 2007
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#11
When I spoke to Lynette at Apple, she checked my serial number and told me my phone was one purchased by AT&T as part of a $3 million purchase.
At one point AT&T was telling me that the "charges to your Visa card for buying this phone were disputed as fraudulent". Once I explained to them that I had not used a Visa to purchase my phone, nor had I set foot in an AT&T or Apple retail location, they dropped this part of the explanation. I tried to find out who's visa card charge was being disputed (The EBay seller's, AT&T's ?), they would not tell me.
Yesterday, when I spoke to the fraud department and inquired as to whether there was a charge dispute that was flagging my phone as stolen and/or needing to be paid for, the Rep told me "All I know is you didn't pay AT&T for this phone".
I honestly felt that the Ebay seller had paid for the phone, and there was just a "glitch" in AT&T's system, but I don't know for sure.
I've sent multiple emails to the seller without response. My assumption, right or wrong, based on the information I can gather, is if he doesn't respond to me after I spoke very politely to his father, asking for his help, is that he has committed a crime. i'm not going to file any charges until I can determine I have no other option.
 

iFuNk

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#15
wow .. it makes me so mad just reading this thread ... yes i definitely think you shouldn't give up yet ... i would make as much commotion as possible .. this is unjust!
 

Swagger

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#16
iPhonian, any tips on contacting the FCC to get that ball rolling?
You can file a complaint online. The one you wrote in this thread would be great! Cut & Paste it (obviously not from the iPhone) into the complaint form on the FCC's site. You may also want to print and send a hard copy to the FCC, being that you will also need a copy to send to AT&T explaining the disputed amount of your bill. Also, I think I now see what happened. The eBay seller probably used someone else's credit card (probably stolen identity) to purchase the phone he sold you. The FBI investigates stolen identity (credit card) and Internet crimes of this nature. You should most certainly contact them, so that the seller can be prosecuted. You have his dad's phone number, the FBI can take it from there. Make that SOB pay for all the trouble he has caused you and probably others also! M
 

mjeagent

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#17
If the Apple rep told you that the your phone was purchased in a $3 million deal by AT&T then I would not move forward in filing criminal charges against the seller. I would however do my best to contact this individual, whether it be by email or phone to address the situation. He/She might still have the sales receipt or some other proof of purchase that would immediately resolve this entire issue.
As far as AT&T is concerned, I would hire a lawyer and have him file suit locally. AT&T is famous for settling these types of cases quickly. Sue them for the amount you were wrongfully billed (and forced to pay), interest on that amount, a reasonable amount for time you spent on the phone, etc.
Once the suit is filed, contact the local media and have them run a story. I guarantee that if AT&T sees this suit filed and catches wind of a possible story, they will settle immediately.
 

Crash Override

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#18
iPhonian, thanks for the info. I just filed a complaint online with the FCC. Attorney general is next! Then I guess I'll try the FBI.

i'm not sure if the guy committed credit card fraud, or if the ball got dropped somewhere by AT&T. i'm going to take TinMan's advice and look into imei numbers IF AT&T will cooperate.
If the seller would just call me back, it would definitely help. He hasn't responded to any emails I've sent though.
 

Tinman

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#19
I spoke very politely to his father, asking for his help, is that he has committed a crime. i'm not going to file any charges until I can determine I have no other option.
You are out over $600--that you have in fact paid. Your options are already compromised.

As far as the IMEI is concerned, I wanted to know what the IMEI of the iPhone AT&T says they sold you is. If it matches the one in your possession then you'll know they didn't charge you for any old iphone--they charged you specifically for yours.

Now that you've added additional information (the disputed CC charge) it seems plausible that the Ebay seller was the one whom contested the CC charge, after receiving payment from you. He may have hoped to make a killing by buying iPhones at retail, and selling them above MSRP. But the seller actually lost money on your iPhone (sales tax, shipping, Ebay fee, etc.). That may have been the motivation to dispute the charge (that and he may have spent the money by the time the CC bill came).

If your issue is with the Ebay seller you will be wasting time with the FCC (though I've never had any luck with them anyway).


--
Mike
 

Swagger

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#20
He hasn't called you back because, he most likely obtained the phone by fraud (credit card, identity theft or some other means). Get the FBI involved immediately before the SOB breaks camp and can't be found. AT&T won't give you the information but they will certainly respond to the FBI's Internet crimes division. The FBI loves cases like this, you have all the info you need on the seller for them to go right to his house and arrest him...M