Local soldier charged with $13,000 cell phone bill

Monday, January 14th 2008, 10:49 pm
By: News 9

By Amanda Taylor, NEWS 9

Sparks, Okla. -- A local soldier found out his cell phone bill was $13,000, most of it was racked up from just one month while he was fighting in Afghanistan.

Joe Hopkins, 20, served in Afghanistan, where he crossed paths with a roadside bomb. Joe is in the Army National Guard and he is now partially deaf and back home in Spark's Oklahoma.

Stephanie Hopkin's is Joe's new bride, and a phone bill came when the two were just dating and when Joe was in Afghanistan.

The phone bill said Joe owed $13,788.

"It was completely overwhelming, Joe said. "It was probably the only time over there I was about to go nuts."

He figured when he got back to the U.S. he'd get it all sorted out. When he called AT&T, they told him they didn't know what he was talking about. That's when a collection agency started seeking more than $16,000.

"It's not just some person who didn't care that he was racking up minutes or not," Stephanie said. "He was fighting in another country for them. If he wasn't over there doing that, they wouldn't have their job."

Joe is now a youth pastor and a father to be and he doesn't have $16,000.

Joe said he was under the impression he had signed up for AT&T's worldwide plan, that would be 25 cents a minute, and a military discount would apply.

"It was supposed to be 25 cents a minute," Joe said. "I don't care. I could talk to her all day."

AT&T tells NEWS 9 that Joe either misunderstood the plan or was told the wrong thing from an AT&T representative.

AT&T doesn't offer a 25 cents a minute plan for the Middle East.

In fact, if you go to their website you'll see a call from Afghanistan costs about $3 a minute. Then there are roaming fees. Even if you're not talking on your phone, but it's on, you could get charged every time a text or an email comes in.

This is a good lesson for all of us. If you're making any changes to a cell phone plan, get it in writing.

If you make those changes over the phone, ask them to send you a detailed copy of it.

And in all fairness to AT&T, over the last two years the company has donated nearly half a million calling cards to the U.S. Military.

And after hearing Joe's story, they wanted to help. AT&T said they will forgive more than $10,000 of Joe's Bill.

If you have a problem Amanda can help you with, call the consumer watch hotline at 841-9921