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Pinellas woman's Verizon fight shows why PINs should be shared

It should go without saying, but the last thing a grieving daughter should have to do is battle the phone company over disconnecting her deceased father's service.

Some things, unfortunately, still have to be said.

Cynthia Lacy of Treasure Island could hardly believe a customer service representative at Verizon refused to disconnect her father's telephone service until after she contacted the Consumer's Edge.

Lacy sent the phone company a death certificate, showing her father, Bill Young of Calvin, W.Va., died in June. But not until repeated phone calls and a complaint to the media did Verizon finally cut it off — last week.

It seems Lacy did not have her father's PIN (personal identification number) to access the account. So the representative refused to help her.

(This is a reminder that in this age of countless PINs and passwords, we need to ensure that someone knows how to get to our stuff in case of an emergency.)

"Well, there's nothing else I can do for you," the representative said before laughing and hanging up the phone.

"This is wrong," a frustrated Lacy said. "I've already sent them the death certificate."

Death certificate not enough?

With a contract on Young's house, the family needed to close out the telephone bill for the incoming owners and to settle his estate. The unsettled telephone bill could hold that up.

Folks at Verizon could not believe the representative's actions, either.

Bob Elek, a spokesman for Verizon, said the representative did not handle the case properly and has since been reprimanded and given coaching.

"The account in question has been discontinued and backdated to Sept. 1," Elek said. "The daughter will receive a credit/refund for the months she paid since September."

The question remains: What can consumers do to avoid this kind of trap in the future?

So here's the Edge:

• Take account of your passwords, PINs and online assets. Reality is that anything could happen, whether death or serious injury. Your family may need to access that information, so it should be a part of estate planning.

• Store the information in a safe place. Safe deposit boxes, which start at about $29 a year, allow family members access to one central place and keep your data safe from hackers who know how to tap even secure federal government computers. Companies such as allow you to store the access information to your accounts in a secure online account for $29.99 a year or a one-time $299.99 payment for life.

Ivan Penn can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2332. Follow him on Twitter at and become a fan of Consumer's Edge on Facebook.

Pinellas woman's Verizon fight shows why PINs should be shared 03/01/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 1, 2010 11:21pm]
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