Dustin paid the price for following Consumerist’s advice and never giving personal information to people who call and claim to be from your phone company or your gas company or your bank. Someone called Dustin claiming to be AT&T and demanding that he confirm the last 4 digits of his SSN. Dustin honestly thought, as we would, that it was a meth-addict trying to get his SSN.
Turns out, the weirdo on the other line was really from AT&T and proceeded to disconnect Dustin’s phone. Oh well. The rule still stands. Don’t tell strangers who randomly call you your SSN or part of your SSN (it can be used to reset passwords) or your mother’s maiden name or, really, anything about you. Tell AT&T you’ll call them back, then call their switchboard.
“Hi, this is Bob from AT&T, I just need to confirm your address and ask you for the one piece of information I’m missing so I can empty your bank accounts, ha ha ha,” is the oldest trick in the book.
Read Dustin’s email inside.
At 9:30 this morning I received a phone call from someone claiming to be from AT&T/Cingular. They said my bill had been sent back and they needed to verify my address. I started saying my address, but the CSR interrupted and asked for the last 4 digits of my SSN. Coincidentally this is the info needed to reset a lost password, etc, within their website info. When I made the appropriate ‘balking’-type grunt, the CSR insisted that it was only the last 4 digits of my SSN. At this point they were definitely sounding like methed-out identity thieves (MOIDs) who had stole my wireless bill. While I’m not sure what could be accomplished with my phone #, address, and last 4 digits of my SSN,
I’m not going to presume what a MOID could come up with. I asked them to contact me by email, which the CSR replied “We can’t do that”. I said I had to go and hung up.
Next time I tried to make a call, it turns out my phone had been disconnected and I would have to call them on a landline to get it turned back on. This process was relatively painless and took me about 5 minutes. My bill had got sent back to them because at some point my apartment number had somehow disappeared from the address on file. The CSR on this call apologized and said they should have sent me a text message before calling me. However, I still would have been suspicious there as well — what difference does a random text message make?
So, in conclusion, when AT&T (the new Cingular (the new AT&T)) loses your address in their files, they cold-call you like a MOID would and disconnect your line if you don’t give them the personal info they demand. Luckily, I wasn’t trapped under a snow bank or something.
AT&T should know better. You did the right thing, Dustin.
Consumerist asked AT&T for more information about their policy on cold calling customers and asking for personal information. We also asked if they had any information on preventing ID theft. AT&T chose not to respond to our inquiry.—MEGHANN MARCO