When a cell phone company accidentally takes some extra money out of your account, it's frustrating, but it's not news.
But when a cell phone company gives you money, then more money and then even more money, that's news. And it can be a bit frightening, too.
Michael Jett recently switched to Sprint after the cell provider offered a great deal for new customers.
"They had a promotion, which is you get one year of free service if you bring your own device," he said.
Money starts pouring in
It sounded like a good deal.
But he didn't expect the deal to be this good. Within hours, Jett started getting alerts that Sprint was crediting money to his account.
"I noticed MasterCards, American Express and Visa cards sending credits to my account, with confirmation numbers, but none of those cards were mine," he said.
And the money kept pouring in from other customers' credit cards.
Jett could not believe what he was seeing: In less that a week, Sprint gave him "$139,000 and some change," he said. "All in credits."
Sprint gave him almost enough money to buy a small house.
What if this happens to you?
Your first reaction might be: How do I get in on this kind of deal?
But Jett realizes that it was a mistake (which would likely be spotted eventually), and also wondered what might happen if his personal information and money was also going into someone else's account.
Wanting to do the right thing, he called Sprint several times, but says he got nowhere.
So we got involved, and a Sprint spokeswoman promised to correct the error immediately, though she would not explain how this might have happened or if it has ever happened before.
Here's what she had to say about the matter:
"We confirmed with Mr. Jett that his online account was set up incorrectly. He was set up on an account used to process payments within our systems. He has no balance. His account has now been updated with the correct information so he will no longer receive bill alerts. We apologized to the customer for the inconvenience this situation caused," according to a statement from Sprint spokeswoman Roni Singleton.
Jett is concerned for all the people unknowingly sending him money as they paid their Sprint bill.
His credit sheet shows the last 4 digits of every credit card coming in, and he worries a hacker might be able to figure out the remaining numbers.
"It's of great concern to me," he said, "because I worry about them, and wonder is my information going to someone else too?"
What you should do
If you ever end up with a windfall like this, remember, the company will eventually catch it. They always do.
So resist the urge to flee to the Caribbean, and give them a call like Jett did.
“Don't Waste Your Money” is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. (“Scripps”)
For more DWYM reports, go to www.dontwasteyourmoney.com.
"Like"John Matarese on Facebook
Follow John on Twitter (@JohnMatarese)