Can anyone help get my phone off the “blacklist”?

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After Emily Kenner’s phone is stolen and recovered, it is “blacklisted” by Cricket Wireless. Can our advocates get Kenner off the blacklist?

Question: I’m asking for your help. I found your site while researching the proper contacts for a company I’ve been battling for nearly a month. In short — Cricket Wireless LLC is holding my phone “hostage.”

In October of 2014 I decided, for the first time, to indulge myself with a flagship device — the Samsung Galaxy S6. It was approximately $650 at the time, and Cricket’s plans were exactly the right fit. I thoroughly enjoyed that phone, up until the point it was stolen from me on January 22, 2017.

I filed a claim with Asurion Insurance the next day and they sent me a replacement device. But the same day I initiated the claim, I was able to utilize Samsung’s tracking service to recover my phone. Now in possession of my original phone, I canceled the claim with Asurion Insurance, returned their replacement phone, which I never used, and considered the matter closed. That is, until I discovered my original phone (now in my possession) had been blacklisted.

Over the next three weeks, via literally hours of online chats and phone calls, being provided with inconsistent information each time, and at one point even being accused of fraud, I have been fighting with Cricket Wireless to have my phone removed from the blacklist. Initially there appeared to be some confusion [about] exactly which company was responsible for removing the phone from the blacklist — Cricket Wireless or Asurion Insurance. It took a conference call between myself, Cricket Wireless, and Asurion Insurance to confirm the removal must come from Cricket. Yet not only do they still refuse to remove the phone, but because of all the back and forth conversations and temporary restores to my account (so that I could make the calls in the first place), my account is now suspended. I discovered yesterday they will not remove the suspension unless I upgrade my device.

I completely understand placing a stolen phone on a blacklist, and even advocate such a move. Yet there appears to be no precedent or policy addressing situations where a stolen phone is returned to its rightful owner. It is truly a traumatic experience to have one’s phone stolen, a situation made infinitely worse by the treatment I’m receiving from Cricket Wireless.

Can you please help me get my phone permanently off the blacklist or a $650 refund on my now-useless phone? — Emily Kenner, Houston

Answer: I know how scary it is to have your phone stolen. Mine was stolen while I was traveling in Cambodia, and I remember the concern over the potential compromise of personal information, as well as the general feeling of insecurity that probably comes with the theft of any personal object.

My phone was never recovered, but I can imagine how relieved you were to learn that yours was on its way back to its rightful owner. But to have that relief shattered by the issues with Cricket Wireless and be accused of fraud must be especially frustrating.

You reported the phone stolen immediately, which is required by the Cricket Wireless Terms and Conditions of Service, and requested a replacement. Then you activated tracking services and found and retrieved the phone. While you commented to us that it might have been better to wait 24 to 48 hours before reporting your stolen phone, I disagree. In addition to the terms and conditions mentioned above, waiting gives the thief time to steal not only your phone but your personal information as well.

From this incident you learned one thing that we tell readers daily: Immediately start a paper trail. You admit that you should have started one as soon as the problem began. You also pointed out that a lot of different options for tracking devices and activity logs exist. You learned that software exists to force a stolen or lost phone to ring at full volume, even when the device is turned off or set to silent. These options seemed to help you recover your device.

After recovering your device, you returned the new phone that was sent as a replacement and called to get service reinstated on your recovered phone. As you mentioned in your initial email to us, Cricket told you to contact the insurance company that provided the replacement phone. The insurance company told you Cricket was responsible. In a conference call that you initiated, the insurance company confirmed that Cricket was responsible, and Cricket promised to reinstate your service.

But it didn’t reinstate your service, so you decided to try the online chat on the Cricket website.

During your first online chat with Cricket Wireless, the representative promised to unblock your phone and call back within 48 hours. Because your phone was blocked and could not receive calls you provided an alternate phone number, which the representative acknowledged when she provided a case number.

You didn’t hear back from Cricket within the 48-hour window and initiated another online chat. The representative online with you this time informed you that Cricket had tried to reach you, but the case was closed when there was no answer to its calls. Ironically, Cricket was calling you on the phone number that it had blocked and made inoperable, rather than the alternate number you provided.

That’s when you requested to speak with a manager. The next message from the representative claimed to be from a “floor manager,” who repeated the same promises, although the manager added that unblocking a phone has to be done by the “back office,” and someone from that office would call you within 24 hours. When you asked for a phone number to reach the back office if no one called you, the manager said there was no number — you would have to wait for a call back.

You noted that you had heard these promises before, and the manager’s response was that you’ve never heard it from a manager, and she asked you to have faith in her. Turns out that faith would have been misplaced since after 72 hours your phone was still on the blacklist.

When the phone still wouldn’t work, you could have used our contacts to escalate your case with the executives at Cricket Wireless. But you reached out to our advocates instead and we contacted Cricket on your behalf.

Two hours after our advocate reached out to Cricket Wireless, your phone was unlocked, you paid your bill, and your phone seems to be working normally. You noted that you found your phone’s serial number on the internet still listed as “blacklisted,” but Cricket assured you it would be removed within 24 hours. I hope that’s the case.

I’m glad we could help solve your problems with Cricket.

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