Ronald Dorff, an 83-year-old great-grandfather from Woodland Hills, California, lives off of $1,530 every month from his Social Security checks. However, he recently got a bill for $24,298.93 from AT&T because his modem somehow started dialing a long-distance number when he connected to AOL dial-up, which he uses for internet access.
The trouble started last month when his bill, which is normally $51 every month, skyrocketed to $8,596.57. He was told a technician would come to his home, but no one did. “So I figured that everything must be OK,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
The next month, he was charged an additional $15,687.64. With late fees, his debt amounted to $24,298.93. The phone company warned him that if he didn’t pay by May 8, his bill would rise nearly $500.
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After requesting assistance from AT&T again, a technician came to his home and said it was a modem issue. "And that was it,” Dorff said.
He added that AT&T initially refused to adjust his bill.
"I told her I couldn't possibly afford what they wanted. She just insisted that I had to pay it. She was very blunt about it,” Dorff said. It was only after he contacted the Los Angeles Times and the story made its way onto social media did the company back down.
“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.
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"This is a rare occurrence, and we address it on an individual basis,” said Georgia Taylor, an AT&T spokeswoman.
Dorff is happy about the outcome, but wonders if other customers are facing similar issues.
“And I’m sure they’re in the same situation I was. ‘What do I do? Where do I go,’” he said.