Am I getting ‘scammed’ by Comcast?

Comcast is charging Ruth Molina $1,300 for equipment she already returned. What can she do to call off the collection agency?

Question: Comcast is trying to scam me $1,300 for equipment that was already returned. I lived in East Brunswick, N.J., for 18 years and Comcast was my cable provider for most of that time. I moved to Jacksonville, Fla., last year. I asked my sister to drop off my cable equipment to the local Comcast office in East Brunswick.

I opened a new Comcast account in Jacksonville. That’s when I discovered I had a balance of over $1,300 for “equipment.” I tried calling Comcast and was able to talk to someone. I don’t have a copy of my return equipment bill; my sister misplaced it.

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I haven’t been able to resolve this. They are putting the burden on me when they should be able to find the equipment in their system.

Now Comcast has sent my account to a collection agency, which is affecting my credit. It is so unfair to have to pay for equipment I returned and don’t have. It’s been a nightmare. Please let me know if there is anything you can do to help me resolve this matter. — Ruth Molina, Saint Johns, Fla.

Answer: Comcast isn’t trying to scam you, but it could be more helpful in trying to resolve this. The company has a right to get its equipment back.

You entrusted your sister with the cable box (which was almost certainly not worth $1,300, but that’s another issue). She should have kept the receipt for your equipment, and if she couldn’t come up with it, maybe she should have taken a more active role in fixing this.

The bottom line is that you were responsible for returning the equipment, and you should have retained a receipt for the hardware. But there’s plenty of blame to go around on this case.

Comcast should have associated your sister’s returned equipment with you and closed your old account. Why didn’t it?

Can Comcast track the returned equipment? I’m not sure if I’d give the company that much credit. Hardware is routinely recycled or discarded, so who knows what happened to your old box?

You could have appealed to someone higher up the Comcast food chain. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of Comcast’s customer service executives on my site.

Sending a collection agency after you when you had nothing to give it was a bit hasty. Comcast employs an army of “retention” specialists who try to talk you out of leaving — why not spare a few who can also assist you with a dignified exit? Instead, all of your calls to Comcast got you nowhere. That’s unfortunate.

Needless to say, the next time you break off a relationship with a cable provider, return the equipment yourself and keep the receipt. Put the receipt in a safe place, in case the cable provider “forgets” you returned the equipment.

I contacted Comcast on your behalf. Your claim has been dropped.


15 thoughts on “Am I getting ‘scammed’ by Comcast?

  1. I had a similar situation with Comcast. I changed jobs, new company IT rules preferred any ISP technology over cable.

    Swapped to FIOS, returned everything to Comcast, got a receipt for equipment return AND a final bill showing nothing due.

    Every year or so, I get a letter from a collection agency demanding between $300 and $1400 for equipment and final bill. I provide a copy of the final receipt to the agency, and it goes away until the next year.

    Comcast always claims that my final receipt was not final, and my supposedly returned equipment may not have been returned.

    Go figure.

  2. How come so many of these letters leave out that one crucial piece of information? And make it pretty obvious about doing so?

    ” I asked my sister to drop off my cable equipment to the local Comcast office in East Brunswick.”

    aaaannnnnndddddd? …you know, did she?

    1. Well, the subsequent sentence about her sister losing the return receipt would imply that the OP believes it was returned.

      1. Not really wanting to argue about what’s implied or not. But if I were to accuse someone, literally, of a scam, I would want to make sure to bring everything full circle and not rely on an implication.

        If the LW was sure the equipment was dropped off, that would be a very easy thing to say, rather than leave it at “I asked my sister to do it.”

  3. I think the title of this “Am I being scammed by Comcast” is a bit much. It could be one of two things.
    1. Her sister didn’t in fact, bring the equipment back.
    2. It was a clerical error at Comcast.
    Neither of which deserve the term “scammed”.

    1. I disagree. I believe this IS a scam, and a well known one at that. I believe the cable companies are doing this willfully, knowing full well that some people will simply pay up even though they returned their equipment.

      Why do I believe this? First, because pretty much the exact same thing happened to me, with Cox Cable. I returned the box…which I know for sure because I brought it to the post office myself…yet they tried for a year to charge me $175 for it, and sent it to collections.

      Second, because when this happened to me, I did some research and discovered that there are literally hundreds of reports of the EXACT SAME SCAM happening to many other people. In the case of Cox, it was always the same amount – $175. Complaint after complaint of former Cox customers who’d returned their cable box, and yet were being harassed by collections agencies for a debt of exactly $175.

      When the same thing keeps happening to hundreds of people, it’s no longer a “clerical error”. It has now risen to the level of basic business practice…and a lucrative one, at that.

  4. I would agree with the above posts. This is not an issue of being scammed. That implies intent. Taking the OP’s word as truth, and there is no reason to not to, at best this is a bureaucratic issue. This is further complicated by the OP’s sister losing the paperwork.

    1. Do a google search on “unreturned cable equipment” and read all the similar stories. Then come back and tell me if you still think this isn’t a scam, perpetrated with full intent.

      When the same thing happens over and over, it’s no longer a “clerical error”. It’s a business practice. And a lucrative one at that.

  5. Yeah, if this were my family, I have no doubt that a year later I’d find that equipment still in the trunk of my brother’s car!

  6. This same thing happened to me, with Cox Cable…albeit for a smaller amount.

    When my son moved to a new apartment, we canceled his Cox account. We asked them what to do about the cable box, and they said they would send someone out.

    Well, strangely enough, they sent someone out alright…but the guy brought my son a cardboard packing box and told him to put it in there and ship it back. Hmmm…how odd! Why wouldn’t the guy just take it himself?

    So we put it in the box, and I brought it to the post office myself. End of story? Not so much.

    Months later my husband and I were attempting to buy a new house, but were denied the mortgage…because of a $175 debt that was showing in collections! I contacted the collections agency, and it turns out Cox said that I never returned the equipment, and had referred the debt to collections.

    It took me well over a year to get this resolved. And during that time I learned that this is actually a very common practice. I found hundreds of reports online of cable customers who’d returned their cable boxes, but were still being charged for them, many of them having gone to collections. Most of the Cox ones were actually reporting the exact came amount, too – $175!

    So we’ve got dozens of people out there reporting the exact same “clerical error” for the exact same amount. And hundreds of others from other cable companies reporting the same story, for different amounts. Sounds like the cable companies have found their equivalent to the rental car company’s false damage claims: a scammy practice that will net them millions, with no recourse.

    Want to see some of these stories yourself? Just do a google search on “unreturned cable equipment” and see what pops up.

  7. I disagree with Chris’ initial approach: “Comcast isn’t trying to scam you, but it could be more helpful in trying to resolve this. The company has a right to get its equipment back.” I’ll explain.
    Comcast is trying to scam her. This scheme is going on for years and I had opportunity to find out how do they create it.
    Did Comcast send her the closing bill showing the returned boxes?
    Did Comcast send her the closing bill showing the charge for non-returned boxes?
    Did Comcast delinquency claim was reported on her credit report?
    Did Comcast send her reminders to return boxes?
    Of course they never done that? This means they have no right to get their equipment back. Regardless most of their equipment and in particular one 18 years old are going straight to the trash!
    They had many years to organize their computer system to stop those “errors” – but they never did and will never do. They make money on that scheme.

    I stopped my cable service some 20 years ago for cause and personally returned the boxes to the local office 2 miles away from my home. The local company was bought by Comcast some to years ago. Forward 20 years- my FIOS was failing to the point that I needed internet back-up. I tried to sign up for Comcast cable internet and I could – their system insisted that my address in 100% residential area was commercial and I cannot have residential service. It also showed that I must return 2 boxes or pay $1,000. Nobody at Comcast telephone number could tell me how my home became commercial site and how to change it and how can I again return the boxes I returned 20 years ago. After two weeks of trying it occurred to me that the telephone number I have used to be my home office number. I had to go to their office now 20 miles away and spent 1.5 hr with the final result that they changed the number on my address to another number that I am lucky to have. If I did not have second line I would be doomed. Than I got the boxes, I got the paper work and leaflets saying that the first 30 days are trial period and if I close the account within 30 days and return the equipment I will owe nothing not even for services used (except movie on demand). I did close the account and brought the boxes to their offices and received the cash register printout showing closing the account and that I owe big fat zero. I asked for a big piece of paper that lists in an open text that I returned the box and its serial number – but I was told we do not have anything to do that.
    A month latter and for next 3 months I was getting the bills from Comcast for the first 30 days adding each consecutive month of service and the late penalty fees. None of the bills showed the return of the box. So again I made the 20 mile trip and I really was lucky in a sense – at first I was serviced with one of the “Monsanto” brains – showed the receipt I got at closing and got nowhere. Than I called for a manager and was lucky she was there – she did clear the mess. Another 1.5 hr lost. I was lucky. I am certain many people who know less about the law are falling victims to Comcast’s machinations.

  8. When my mother passed away, Comcast told me I could return it to a UPS store. I took it in, they scanned the barcodes, and it instantly recorded to the account that the equipment was returned. I think Comcast and their business processes are a mess. They are indeed the Worst Company in America. However, their system to scan the bar codes, mark equipment returned, and then generate a receipt is pretty solid. I’m not sure Comcast is at fault here.

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