Soldiers in Haiti dealing with high cell phone bills

FORT BRAGG They made calls they thought would be free to soldiers helping in Haiti.

Verizon Wireless offered free cell phone calls to and from Haiti as part of a promotion to collect money for earthquake victims in the island nation. Instead of getting free calls, some families racked up thousands of dollars in charges.

"My heart dropped, because I've never had a bill this high ever," soldier's wife Angel Crawford said.

Crawford's husband is in the 82nd Airborne, one of the thousands of paratroopers in Haiti helping earthquake victims. Many of them deployed with cell phones.

Some soldiers made frequent calls home after Verizon announced last month that all cell calls to and from Haiti would be free through Feb. 14.

Crawford says she and other wives called Verizon to verify the offer.

"They kept telling us yes, yes, yes they are free, so that's what we went on and talked every day," Crawford said. "He also let his friends use his phones cause he thought it was free."

Crawford isn't the only one to get an outrageously high cell bill, there are reports other soldiers have received phone bills of $2,000 to $3,000.

But Verizon blames a software glitch.

"They used a carrier in Haiti that for some reason showed up as Jamaica in our system, so our automatic filters didn't pick it up because it was automatically programmed to look for Haiti," Verizon spokesperson Karen Schultz said.

Verizon says Crawford and other customer accounts will be credited for calls to Haiti after a software patch it installed.

Crawford says that's one less thing she has to worry about.

A Verizon spokesperson says the free calls to and from Haiti promotion ended Feb. 14 and now regular rates apply.

Military families who had cell phone charges before Valentine's Day need to contact Verizon to get their accounts credited.

About 3,500 soldiers have been in Haiti helping earthquake survivors.

A spokesman for the 82nd says an exact timetable for their homecoming is being worked out, but it should begin in a week or two.

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