ALOHA, Ore. -- An Aloha cell phone customer hoped recycling her old phones could help someone, until she dropped one off and later got a huge bill from Verizon.
Cathy Buhler said she has gone through a lot of cell phones, so when she heard about a program to donate her old phones to help battered women, she took her old phones to a Beaverton Verizon store.
But then she realized one of the phones was still active, with all her contacts still stored in it.
"The manager reassured me that's not a problem,” Buhler said. “They wipe the phones clean of all the information and they make them only 911 dialable."
That was last February. In July she noticed her cellular bill was really high. She was charged $631 because someone else was using her donated phone.
"Still active, still attached to my account,” she said, “same phone number, same phone."
She said she talked with four different Verizon employees by phone and at the store, and they all blamed her.
A Verizon spokesperson declined to talk on camera.
In a statement he said, "We have confirmed that the customer’s phone was received at our facility, deactivated, and cleared of all customer data.”
But Buhler said that's not true. She said she called her donated phone, the one she was billed for, and a man from Georgia answered.
"He tried telling me he bought the phone off the street and it had been activated in a program which he would get 230 free minutes,” she explained. “And I said, ‘Yes. You'll get 230 free minutes because I'm paying for them.’"
Since Buhler contacted Unit 8, Verizon has dropped all charges associated with her donated phone, and issued a statement reading, "We have addressed and resolved all issues to the customer’s satisfaction."
She said that statement is now true, but she had to call Unit 8 before Verizon would do the right thing.
"I will never donate a phone again,” she said. “I will sadly say pollute the landfill at this point, because my trust has been shattered with them."