Our view: A missed call
The Salem News
Jul 11, 2012
Michael Smith’s Ipswich-based company, Todd Tool and Abrasive Systems, employs 14 people at its Route 1 shop. The crew there doesn’t have much reason to make phone calls to Africa.
So imagine Smith’s shock one day in 2009 when he discovered hackers had used his phone system to make hundreds of calls to Somalia, leaving him with a phone bill of more than $1 million. (Todd Tool’s regular phone bill runs about $700 a month.)
Verizon, Smith’s phone service provider, noticed the unusual number of calls and shut down the company’s ability to dial overseas, seemingly stopping the hackers in their tracks. Verizon later wrote off its $260,000 portion of the fraudulent calls.
Good news, right? Not so fast. Enter another telecommunications giant.
It seems the hackers were also able to make calls using a work-around involving AT&T, even though Smith doesn’t have a contract with the company. Hackers were able to continue making $22-a-minute calls for another four days, racking up a bill of $891,470.39. Adding charges and interest brings the number to $1.15 million, which AT&T decided to sue Todd Tool for in federal court.
AT&T argued that Smith should have done more to protect his phone system from hackers. The company also says under federal regulations, it can collect from the owner of the phone line that was used to make the call, regardless of who actually made the call.
Please. It’s obvious that Todd Tool was the target of a sophisticated operation, one that was able to continue to make calls even after Verizon tried to shut them down. As for the second argument, AT&T was essentially saying it wanted to take the money from Smith because it could. (At this point, it’s worth remembering Verizon wrote off its bill.)
Fortunately, AT&T came to its senses — just a bit — after reporter Julie Manganis wrote about Smith’s plight in Monday’s edition of The Salem News. The story went viral in a matter of hours, and by Monday afternoon, AT&T was offering Smith a deal — we’ll drop our lawsuit if you drop your countersuit. Yesterday, the company dropped the lawsuit outright. Smith, meanwhile, is proceeding with his countersuit.
We think AT&T’s offer doesn’t go far enough. Smith was victimized twice — first by faceless phone hackers, then by a faceless corporate giant with more power than empathy or common sense.
The company should also pay the $30,000 in legal bills Smith has incurred fighting the lawsuit over the last three years; an apology wouldn’t hurt either.
That would make Todd Tool whole and would go a long way toward repairing the damage AT&T has done to its reputation in this case.
Source: Salem News
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