“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.”

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Caleb Triscari

Caleb Triscari is a former SmartCompany sub-editor.