Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Do not bundle your phone and internet services

Most people today, including myself have chosen to bundle our electronic services in order to save money. I strongly recommend that people avoid this practice. Here is what happened to me.

For legal reasons and because I am only 95% sure that the story I'm about to tell is accurate, I will not tell you my service provider. Here is what happened.

For a 2 week period I had been receiving a phone call from the 617 area code and the line was always empty except for the first time the call came in. The first time the call came in, when questioned, the person on the end of the line said he was "Eric from Verizon". After that first call, that same number would call our house 4 to 5 times daily. Each time the phone was answered, we had no response, just empty air. I checked the number against all Verizon offices in the 617 area code and their was no match. I was positive that the phone call had some illegitimate purpose, but what?

One day around noon I was working my e-mail account when the phone call came in. Again, there was nothing but empty air. I hung up the phone and exited my e-mail thinking I had finished for the time being. Five minutes later, I realized that I forgot to send an e-mail so I tried to re-enter my account and my identity was stolen. Coincidence or criminal activity? I immediately began the painful process of trying to contact a live person at my e-mail provider. Thanks to the help of the Reference Department at my local library, I was given a group of numbers to call.

Here is the funny thing, as I dialed these numbers, the number would show up on my e-mail entry page under "user name". My telephone was talking directly to my computer on my e-mail page. I recovered my e-mail in approximately 50 minutes, but the damage was done. Minutes later I started getting calls from treasurers of organizations I belong to asking why I was requesting wire transfers of money. A crime has been committed but does anyone care?

Nobody cared; nothing was stolen, the police could care less; but even more outrageous, the service provider could care less. After warning 3000 people in my address book, I decided to have it out with my service provider.

I sat for 3 hours trying to explain to person after person what had happened and was met with only denial. What really burned me was my service provider would not even put me in touch with a forensic person to study my claim. The company supervisors also denied they had fraud units - this is an absolute lie.

I spoke to a person who shall remain nameless but has intimate knowledge of communications and how these systems work. This person is about the smartest person I have ever known and his resume includes work in national defense, NASA and a host of other impressive high tech companies. He absolutely agreed that this is how my e-mail was stolen. Now my 95% certainty has shifted to 99%.

My service provider simply did not care; not even when I told them that my only alternative is to UN-bundle. I blocked the bogus number from reaching my phone through the service provider, but the crooks could be working off of dozens of numbers and they could call again at any time. Now I take the phone off of the hook when I'm using my e-mail, but I intend to change my phone to a different company.

Beware; I hope you have not had the misfortune that I had.


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