A WORTHING recruitment worker has spoken of an ordeal that left her facing a phone bill of £21,000, when thieves stole her phone after she had celebrated a friend’s birthday in Barcelona.
Georgia Harris had enjoyed a break in the Catalan capital, but shortly after returning to Gatwick airport, she realised her mobile had been stolen and quickly reported it to police and her operator, Vodafone.
When the 23 year-old from Broadwater went to pick up a replacement phone, she was left stunned when told that her account had been blocked due to suspected fraudulent activity and that she would be billed for thousands of pounds.
She said: “When I got home from Barcelona I realised my phone was missing and reported it to Police. I had a lock on it, so I didn’t think that anyone would be able to do too much with it.
“But I was told by the phone company that my phone had been blocked for suspicious activity on it.
“I couldn’t believe it when they told me that there was a bill of £21,000 on there, I was just stunned.
“I thought that I might have lost a couple of hundred pounds, but nothing like that amount.”
Despite having notified the company about the theft of her phone at the earliest opportunity, she was initially advised that she would have to repay the £21,000.
But after it investigated the incident which happened on Saturday, March 16, the company had agreed to make an exception to its general rule on phone loss responsibility.
While relieved that she did not have to pay back the money, Georgia felt there needed to be greater awareness of what rights and responsibilities customers had in circumstances such as hers.
A spokesperson for Vodafone confirmed the company did not have a policy of placing an automatic bar on levels of phone usage.
She said that as this was a case of targeted fraud, the company had waived the bills that had been built up.
“This is a very unusual case,” the spokeswoman added.
“Normally, the customer is liable for any charges up to the point they report their phone lost or stolen.
“However, this phone seems to have been used as part of a deliberate and organised crime which we will be investigating.
“In this case, we will be waiving all of the charges raised by this fraud.
“It’s worth remembering how important it is to keep your phone safe, and get in touch with us as soon as you suspect it’s missing.”