Q. I cancelled DIRECTV recently and they said I didn’t need to send back my set-top because it was an older model. But I got to thinking that if they make a mistake and forget, they could bill me for not sending back the receiver. Does this ever happen? What should I do here? Should I hold on to the set-top for awhile? I hope I’m not being paranoid. — Marcy, Peoria, Illinois. 

Marcy, you are not being paranoid. Over the years, several ex-DIRECTV customers have told me that they were billed hundreds of dollars for their receivers several months after a customer service rep told them they didn’t need to send them back. Either the customer service reps were wrong, or DIRECTV’s data base was somehow changed to reflect that the receivers should have been returned.

While I suspect this doesn’t happen frequently, you certainly don’t want it to happen to you.

So if DIRECTV says you don’t need to send it back when you cancel, I recommend keeping your DIRECTV receiver for at least 12 months. If they come back and say it should have been returned, you’ll still have it to send back.

Also, if your customer service rep notified you by mail that you didn’t need to return the box, by all means keep that e-mail! You might be asked for it as proof in a collection dispute!

One more point: If DIRECTV does ask you to return the receiver, keep the shipping receipt that shows that the satcaster received it. You also don’t want them coming back and saying you never returned it when you actually did and have proof.

Trust me, this may sound like paranoia, but it’s not. NBCBoston.com, in fact, recently published an article detailing how DIRECTV charged her $196 for a receiver after she sent it back.

“A month later I got a bid saying it hadn’t been returned and that they were charging me $196 and some odd cents,” says Allison Connolly, who lived in Plaistow, New Hampshire. “I figured sometimes the timing can be off — maybe whoever received the equipment didn’t relay it to billing. I had the receipt UPS gave me at the store. They were able to pull the transaction of whatever dock it was left at, at the address where I sent it. Once I had the proof I thought, OK, this will be easy.”

Connolly said she sent DIRECTV the return receipt, but the company charged her anyway and even sent her bill to a collection agency!

DIRECTV didn’t acknowledge the mistake until NBC Boston stepped in and asked for an explanation after presenting Connolly’s receipt.

“We provided a refund and were happy to work with the customer to resolve this,” AT&T, which now owns DIRECTV, told the station.

So, Marcy, hold on to everything. Companies make mistakes and you don’t want to be their next victim.

Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at swann@tvpredictions.com. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.

— Phillip Swann