A New Richland, Minn., man was in sticker shock after returning from a weeklong vacation in Mexico this spring. But it wasn't the hotels or other travel expenses that broke the bank. It was the joy ride his cellphone took while he was there.

The 20-year-old checked with his cellphone company before leaving and added 75 international minutes to his account.

His says his carrier forgot to tell him one important thing: As long as his phone was turned on in Mexico, it would try to find a signal. For that activity he would be charged $5 per minute.

The traveler made few calls, so he was surprised to later find out that he was hit with $1,400 in charges during his trip, mostly for leaving his phone turned on while it was physically outside its normal coverage area. After he complained, the company agreed to reduce his bill to $1,000.

To avoid similar problems, the Better Business Bureau offers the following suggestions to international travelers:

• Contact your cellphone provider to learn applicable rules.

• Turn off your phone when not in use - or leave it at home.

• Consider renting or buying an international cellphone.

• Buy a prepaid SIM card if you plan to make a lot of calls. This gives you access to a local phone number at the country's local rate.

Targeted widow fighting back

State investigators are looking into a company that tried to get a widow to pay for an order supposedly placed by her recently deceased husband.

A website called engravedcustomgifts.com sent Nina Wallestad a letter in May requesting payment for four crystal paperweights. Wallestad was skeptical of the firm, which claims to operate out of Katy, Texas. The message on the $78 paperweights, one for each of their four children, was signed "love, DAD." Her children always called him "papa."

Wallestad contacted the Minnesota attorney general's office, which suspected the company might be using obituary information to take advantage of grieving families.

State officials sent the company a letter requesting a copy of the order form submitted by Mr. Wallestad. The company refused to provide the record, saying its "privacy policy" ruled out sharing that information without written permission from the customer -- in this case, Wallestad's deceased husband.

On July 11, the attorney general sent the company another letter noting it is "reasonable" to provide a copy of the order form "the late Mr. Wallestad allegedly submitted." The office gave the company 10 days to respond.

Whistleblower was unable to reach the company, which did not provide a phone number on the letter to Wallestad and does not provide contact information on its website. A search of domain names reveals the website is registered to someone in Panama.

Wallestad also contacted the American Cancer Society after noticing that the website displayed the society's logo along with a claim that it donates a portion of profits to the organization. The logo has since been removed from the site.

Stay tuned for further developments.