Telecommunications

“Still in limbo”: small business owner warns others after receiving $4000 phone bill for accounts he never set up

Caleb Triscari /

Andrew Dwight and his team. Source: Supplied.

A small business owner has warned other SMEs to take be vigilant about protecting personal information, after he was billed more than $4000 for mobile services he says were set up in his name but did not actually belong to his business.

Andrew Dwight, founder of software firm Ruby Sketch, told 9News this week that he received a text message from Telstra while on holiday recently, explaining his mobile service was going to be cut off because his bills were unpaid.

Dwight soon discovered an unauthorised number of mobile services had been added to his business account with Telstra, which accumulated a $2261.73 mobile bill that ended up rising to to $4138.98 over the course of a month.

Dwight tells SmartCompany he still doesn’t know how the mobile services were added to his business account, but suspects the information needed to set up the accounts may have somehow accidentally given over the phone to someone impersonating the phone provider.

He believes it’s challenging for businesses to know when they are talking to a genuine service representative, given phone companies do phone their customers to genuinely offer new services.

“It’s hard for a consumer to know… because Telstra does it [outbound calls] themselves,” he tells SmartCompany.

Dwight contacted the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman in response to the bills, and says Telstra contacted Dwight the following day to ask for evidence the mobile services didn’t belong to the business.

The case is still ongoing, with Dwight saying even once he’d raised the issue, it has taken significant time to resolve.

“The Ombudsman chased it up, but there was no resolution,” Dwight says.

Dwight says that luckily, his business account with Telstra is still open.

When contacted by SmartCompany, a Telstra spokesperson says an investigation into the situation is underway.

“We have contacted the customer to apologise. We have launched an investigation into the handling of the account. As requested by the customer we have suspended the services in question, so there won’t be any further charges. We are also in the process of refunding them for the related charges,” the spokesperson said.

Be careful with personal data

Dwight warns small businesses to restrict the amount of personal and business information that is available for the public to see, particularly if it can be used by others to set up accounts like phones and internet.

We are very security conscious, we’re a software company, so it’s pretty much open slather for most people [other businesses]. All I can say is never put your birthday online, don’t have your personal phone number for marketing your business,” he tells SmartCompany.

Dwight also warns businesses to be sceptical when handing over personal information over the phone, given he says the transfer of this information could have lead to the fraudulent accounts being established in this case.

“If someone calls you on a private number and asks for personal details, there’s a good chance they [can then] get access to your account.”

At the moment, Dwight says he remains in limbo as Telstra investigates the situation before taking further action.

“Telstra is supposed to call us tomorrow and hopefully they’ve got some sort of outcome, but at the moment we’re still in limbo.”

NOW READ: An email scam has caused $200,000 in losses to real estate agents and home buyers in Victoria

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Caleb Triscari

Caleb Triscari is SmartCompany's subeditor.

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  • Albert Ross

    Most of the telco call centres are based outside this country, Who knows what notes the operatives are making and passing on to nefarious associates.

  • Toorak MedicalCentre

    Hi

    My ZULTYS PABX was hacked and the first I knew was when I got a bill for $4000+
    The Telco forced me to pay, or else be disconnected
    They blamed the hack on poor password – the one that came with the installation and that the Telco’s IT person had always used – AND never changed….
    The Victorian and Federal Police had no jurisdiction nor advice about international theft by hacking.
    Make sure your PABX has a strong password and change it regularly…or you will be forced to pay

  • Andrew

    The issue with Telstra is they have no firm competition, “they own the copper”, so they don’t care about their customers ad there is no other option. One day their time will come and i believe the dissatisfied customers will stick it to them.
    Low level satellites is the answer, NBN is yesterday’s technology.
    I can’t wait for the day that Telstra pays for all thr inconvenience and disgustingly pour service.

  • Shane King

    We learnt this the hard way too. I was the IT Manager for a Local Council and all Telstra interactions were password protected. One rogue manager of an external business unit managed to get a $10k / month digital service connected to his site. He could not have been chalenged for the password – he didnt have it. Telstra in this case just went ahead. The GM on the other hand wasnt as forgiving!!!