Press 2 to speak to a secure cable operator

June 1, 2020
My family's residential phone number, part of the cable voice, data and video package that we pay to receive, was hacked and hijacked -- and it involved identity theft.

By Matt Vincent, Senior Editor -- Late last year my family's residential phone number, part of the broadband cable voice, data and video package that we pay to receive, was hacked and hijacked -- and it involved an apparent case of identity theft. Although, I feel the jury's still out on whether I'm currently either in the thick, or in the wake, of recovering from an identity theft crisis that, if not exactly brought on, was at least inadvertently facilitated by my local cable operator -- one of "the biggies."

The way it all happened was, at some point we noticed that our landline phone had stopped ringing for 2 or 3 weeks. Then, we discovered that all our incoming calls were somehow being digitally routed to some weird Google voice service (I know it sounds fishy). Then, names of people we'd never heard of before (very fishy) appeared on our service account as tabulated on the provider's customer website. 

We called customer support repeatedly, and they put us on hold, then listened to us, pressed a few buttons, wiped the strange names off of our account, and assured us that the problem had been been solved. Then it kept happening. More calls, more assurances the problem had been fixed. And it still kept happening. So we finally changed our home phone number of 15 years. With the new phone number in place -- customer service and tech support said the problem should now be solved.

And it still kept happening.

Finally, I recently received via the USPS a bill collection notice originating from a different cable player on the opposite coast. It turned out that some malefactor in Orange County, CA had initiated home voice, data, video service in my name, using my home phone number(s), and worse, using my Social Security Number, and had billed it to my name, at my home street address, located clean on the other side of the country. And eventually that unpaid bill rose to a sum of over $1500, and was remanded to a collections agency located in a desert region of the country, which shall go unnamed.

The last time on the phone, we pleaded: We need to talk with somebody in cybersecurity engineering. Like an actual engineer -- someone who knows something about operational security. Now, the customer support people were polite throughout this ordeal -- no issue with them. I give credit where it's due to the cable company as well, who eventually discovered the breach of my SSN that enabled the criminal to put me in this position.

Still, I feel like somebody stole my ID and all I got was this t-shirt. Metaphorically speaking, naturally -- where a t-shirt equals some admittedly lovely-looking TV and fast internet. But the shirt has been stained by the many minutes spent engaging with marginally effective tech support and "security department" talk emanating from the handset of my repeatedly hijacked landline. Meanwhile, I felt like it was my responsibility to do the cable company's job for them -- or compel them to do their job, correctly.

Cable MSOs, please know that, in my opinion, it all boils down to a few salient words -- a few key concepts. Some pretty big ones, actually. Like, Security. Cybersecurity. Customer Service. Crime. And Punishment. The criminals are criming -- and I, the customer, am being punished. I'm a customer putting a freeze on his credit at three independent bureaus to ward off any further damage from identity theft. Meanwhile, I've been assured that this time, the problem has been solved. Or was being solved. After all the back and forth, I can't quite remember.  Right now I have the choice of taking my cable company's word for it, or taking their word for it and talking about it. Press 2 to speak to an operator.

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