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Preventing Cell Phone Bill Shock After Traveling Abroad

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) – A lot of us can’t imagine life without our cell phones. That feeling of being connected 24 hours a day is something that many of us have come to depend on. But if you are traveling, that could get you in trouble.

Lee Frankel found that out the hard way. On a recent business trip he got an unpleasant surprise when his family sent text messages and pictures to his phone while he was gone.

“I could hear in my pocket the ding, ding, ding as the texts kept coming in and the photos kept coming in,” he said. A series of cute photos of his son cost him nearly $70 dollars in roaming fees. “I don’t think it is fair. I think the fees are exorbitant,” he complained.

WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben reports

But there is really no way around the problem. As long as your cell phone is on, your data is being delivered. If you are out of the country, you will be charged international roaming fees which can really add up. “It can be shocking,” explained Rod Davis of the Better Business Bureau. “Consumers have their phones on and they think if they don’t take an email, if they don’t look at any of the IMs, I’m not going to incur any of the roaming fees,” he said.

In the last year, the Better Business Bureau has received more than 27,000 complaints about cell phone companies, many from customers who were hit with unexpected roaming fees. The FCC is also getting an earful. “There was one particular complaint that was over $65,000. That’s more than a lot of people make in a year,” explained Nidel De La Torre of the FCC.

Both agencies plan to work with cell phone companies to help prevent what they are calling bill shock. “I think it would be very helpful for them [cell companies] to send to customers in every case just outlining how the international coverage works,” Davis said.

To avoid the charges, have your cell phone company turn off your data while you are going. You could also rent a phone or buy a SIM card from the country you are visiting so that you are charged local rates. You can also call your provider’s customer service hot-line for tips on how to avoid unwanted charges.

A little extra work upfront will save you a lot of hassle when you get back. “After you have gone through and you have had a great vacation, that is not the kind of present you want to get when you get home,” Davis said.

You can also call your provider’s customer service hot-line for tips on how to avoid unwanted charges.

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