Phone Numbers Erased

WSVN — Imagine right now if your phone company wiped out every number, every contact from your phone. If they can’t retrieve them, legally what do they have to do to fix the problem? The answer might surprise you, in tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Keith Roberts has his own company, helping small businesses apply for government contracts.

Keith Roberts: "I can contact a vendor, ‘Hey, there’s an opportunity here, and I’d like for you to look at the opportunity and see if it’s a fit for you.’"

Keith travels a lot, and uses his cellphone to stay in touch with his contacts.

Keith Roberts: "I would say several thousand, because that’s the nature of the beast. You have to have a database of vendors to go to."

Then he bought his wife a new phone and planned to use her phone, then give his work phone to his daughter. But first, he went to the phone store.

Keith Roberts: "And her information from her old phone was supposed to be transferred to her new phone. And I would have my old information from my cellphone transferred to my wife’s cellphone, because I would be in possession of it."

The store clerk said it was done. Keith went home.

Keith Roberts: "And my wife says, ‘Honey, where are the phone numbers?’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Cause I did not check at the store, because I’ve done this for 13 years."

The phone numbers from Keith’s phone and his wife’s phone had not been transferred. They had been deleted.

Keith Roberts: "I looked at the phone and was shocked, because my wife’s numbers are missing, my phone numbers are missing."

Keith went back to the store.

Keith Roberts: "The contacts were deleted, and all three of our phones were what you call wiped clean, which means there is nothing on the phones."

All the contacts of his potential customers that had taken years to accumulate were gone.

Keith Roberts: "There were several hundred contracts in our phone database, not to mention the 300 that were in my wife’s database. It’s all gone, unfortunately."

Keith said the phone company and their corporate office told him there was no way to retrieve the phone numbers. Keith was stunned.

Keith Roberts: "It took the wind out of me, literally. I cannot believe that this has happened."

Well, Howard, legally what can you do if this happens to your phone?

Howard Finkelstein: "Legally, you are out of luck, because we checked the four major cellphone companies. In the contract that you sign or agree to, they all say they are not responsible for data lost when transferring from one phone to the other, meaning they do not have to compensate you for your losses."

We first contacted T-Mobile. They were great.

Keith had asked for free phone service for his family’s phones. Since he signed a form promising not to disclose what T-Mobile did, he can’t talk, but a T-Mobile spokesperson wrote, "We are happy to confirm that we were able to reach a successful resolution with the customer."

Robert Moody, Forensic Data Services: "’Delete’ does not mean delete."

We then asked Robert Moody from Forensic Data Services to look at the phones.

Robert Moody: "They did a factory reset on the phone, and that basically made it as if it was a brand-new phone. There was no information left on it."

But despite the phones being wiped clean, Robert offered to try to retrieve the contacts for free, and found quite a few of them.

Robert Moody: "We were able to retrieve 362 contacts from one of the two cellphones. The other one, there were no contacts able to be recovered."

Good news for Keith.

Keith Roberts: "I’m very appreciative of the services that the company has provided me."

And some advice from Robert.

Robert Moody: "Make sure you back up your phone, whether it’s the Google Play Store or the iCloud or any of the backup services. It’s important to do that regularly."

Backup, backup, backup. We all know we need to back up our phones, but when was the last time you did it? If it’s been a while, do it now. You might lose that phone tomorrow with all your contact information.

Got a problem you want to delete from your life? Wiped out trying to fix it? Phone us. Hopefully we can provide backup for you and dial up a solution.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
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On Twitter: @helpmehoward7