A $19,370 wireless oops

This is not the first time we've heard of someone running up a huge wireless bill with a laptop computer. This story isn't quite as bad as the C$85,000 bill one family got, but racking up almost $20,000 in charges has got to hurt. Dave Terry got an AirCard from AT&T for wireless access to email and the internet while traveling. AT&T says they told the customer that the wireless plan didn't include international use, but Dave says when he got the card he wasn't told anything about international fees.

Dave Terry's son went to Vancouver in July and used the card 21 times to send pictures and emails. Their 200-page bill totaled $19,730 because of international charges. Dave says that since the family's wireless bill is usually $250 to $300, the company should have alerted them as soon as it got over $1,000.

I have a bit of a different take. Sure, I feel kind of badly that they got such a huge bill. On the other hand, it's the consumer's responsibility to know what the costs are before using the service. If I were traveling internationally, you better believe I'd have it in writing exactly what the cost would be before using the service. And don't expect the service provider to alert you that you're spending money with them.

AT&T could be nice to the family and reduce the bill so that it just covers the company's cost of providing the service. If it costs more for AT&T to provide international services, the family should definitely bear this cost. And everyone traveling internationally should be more careful in the future!

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.