Stuck with $6000 bill after Thai phone theft

By Chloe Johnson

Sonya Simovik is angry she has to pay. Photo / Kellie Blizard
Sonya Simovik is angry she has to pay. Photo / Kellie Blizard

A doctor whose phone was pickpocketed while holidaying in Thailand has returned home to a $6000 phone bill - and she is being asked to pay up.

Junior doctor Sonya Simovik, 26, was drinking with a friend at a bar on the island of Koh Pi Pi when two Thai men attempted to pick them up.

After the unsuccessful and forceful encounter, the men sneakily pickpocketed Simovik and left the bar with her Pin-locked iPhone and 2000 baht ($80).

Simovick reported the theft to Thai police the next day and attempted to find her phone using a GPS tracker application she downloaded prior to her three-week holiday last month.

Simovick was unable to find her phone and, believing the Pin-lock would protect her personal details, she put the unpleasant experience behind her and tried to enjoy the last five days of her holiday.

On return to Auckland, Simovik was shocked to learn she had an outstanding phone bill of $6000.

It's not known how the Pin-lock was hacked.

"I was thinking 'hold on a minute, $6000, are you kidding me?'," said Simovik.

She was surprised Vodafone had asked her to pay for the thieves' calls and data usage, and questioned their level of fraud detection.

"If a credit card gets stolen, my bank would cover it because they have insurance," said Simovik.

"I don't know why they didn't tell me or why there wasn't a limit. That seems ridiculous to me."

Standard travel insurance does not cover fraudulent use of phones or credit cards.

Vodafone spokeswoman Michelle Baguley said Vodafone called the phone number when they noticed an unusual spike of usage five days after it had been stolen. When no-one answered the network left a voicemail and barred the phone.

Baguley said Vodafone was not aware of the unusual activity until five days later because the information had not been passed on from the Thailand telecommunications supplier.

Baguley said it was the customer's responsibility to inform Vodafone of stolen phones so they could block the account.

"It's in our contract. Vodafone advises all our customers to notify us as soon as they realise their phone is gone, even if they suspect it is only lost, and the phone will be instantly barred," she said.

Vodafone initially offered Simovik a 30 per cent discount, leaving her with $4200 to pay.

However, after enquiries from the Herald on Sunday Vodafone said it would negotiate further when her final bill arrived next week.

Advice for travellers

Avoid taking your phone overseas but if you have to, do the following:
* Use a local Sim card bought from the country you are in.
* If you stick with your New Zealand provider, contact them to deactivate roaming before you leave.
* If your phone is lost or stolen, inform your provider straight away. They will be able to bar your Sim and stop calls and data.
* Inform local police department and get an incident report.
* Use the security lock code, or Pin feature, to lock your phone. This will make it less valuable to a thief and deny them access to personal numbers stored on your Sim card - although it does not prevent the Sim from being used in another phone.
* Check your travel insurance, so you know what you are covered for, before leaving NZ.

- Herald on Sunday

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