AT&T Tries To Stick Customer With $20,000 Phone Bill

If someone steals your credit card info and buys $20,000 worth of junk you would never purchase, there are laws in place to protect you. But if someone does that to your small business’s AT&T account, the company tells you that you now owe them $20,000.

The L.A. Times’ David Lazarus has the story of a California attorney who complained to AT&T after more than $20,000 in calls to Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East were made on her account during a two month period.

“I’m a local attorney,” she tells the Times. “I don’t have an international practice. I don’t know anyone in these countries. These are unequivocally not my calls.”

She eventually got someone from AT&T to admit that these calls were obviously not made by her and that she would not have to pay them.

Or so she thought.

In April, AT&T called her, threatening to cut off her service if the $20,000 wasn’t paid within three days. She contacted the rep who had told her all would be well and she was once again assured that she did not have to pay for these calls.

Wrong again.

June came, and so did demands from AT&T for the money. And this time, the Death Star was telling her they investigated the matter and determined she needed to pay up.

“He told me it was obvious that the breach occurred through my system,” she tells the Times, “so I was responsible.”

An AT&T rep tried to explain why the customer is at fault in this situation: “If your toaster blows up in your home, you don’t expect the electricity company to be responsible for it… It’s your toaster.”

Lazarus reports that Verizon has a similar policy of sticking customers with fraudulent charges if it believes that the hacking occurred to the customer’s phone system.

Regardless, AT&T and the attorney have come to a settlement of some sort, though a nondisclosure agreement prohibits either from sharing the details. What the customer can say is that she will definitely be getting her service from anyone other than AT&T from now on.

When phone line is hacked, who’s on the hook? [L.A. Times]

Thanks to Chris for the tip!