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DALLAS -- There's a vacant lot on Chimney Hill Lane in Northeast Dallas. Where passersby see an empty slab, Paula Browning White still sees home.

"That was the garage," she said. "It's the first time I've seen the slab."

A January fire ripped through the home she rented. She lost her two dogs, and memories that can not ever be replaced.

"Things that meant so much to us -- remnants of my husband who passed away several years ago, my son who passed away a few years ago," she said, choking back tears.

She filed an insurance claim for things that could be replaced, following her agent's advice.

"I started with the biggest things in each room, like the couch, refrigerator, televisions, all the clothes, my daughter's clothes, shoes," sWhite said.

But the AT&T U-verse equipment slipped her mind.

"Never occurred to me," she said. "Never crossed my mind. In fact, it was a few days before I thought, 'I should call utility companies and tell them I wouldn't be needing their services, because there's no house.'"

When White called to cancel service, she said AT&T told her to send everything back, but she, "told her I'm not going to be able to send them back -- they don't exist."

She said the AT&T representative told her she'd note her account, and that she might receive an e-mail reminding her to send them back, but it would be okay to ignore the message.

One e-mail arrived in February, and another in early March.

"Then I started getting phone calls about a debt collection, and [Monday] I went to the AT&T website to check my account and discovered I had a charge for $811 for failure to return the DVR boxes and the modem," White said.

She contacted WFAA, and shortly after we contacted AT&T, that $811.90 charge was dropped.

An AT&T spokesperson said, "We're sorry for Ms. White's loss and we are happy to help her during this difficult time, so we credited her account. In any disaster, we ask that our customers first file any losses with their insurance provider. Customers can then contact us and we will work them on an individual basis to assess their situation. It's important for us to help our customers when we can in these types of situations."

Paula has moved to a new apartment, and she adopted a new rescue dog. She's relieved the debt is gone.

"I would've paid the $811 if I had to, but it was the principal," she said. "And what about other people who can't afford it? I don't wish this on anyone."

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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