Identity Theft

AT&T Fraud: How To Prevent Wireless, Text, Phone, Malware, Etc

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Cartoon of man on phone who is actually a scammer through looking glass
Get a call or text from AT&T about your phone account? Don’t give them any information, it could be a scammer in disguise.

Did you receive a text or phone call from AT&T about your “new AT&T phone account”? Or maybe you are subscribed to an ID theft protection service and got an alert that a new AT&T wireless account had been opened in your name and that there was a match on not just your full name but your date of birth and social security number as well. Or even worse – you got a bill from AT&T and have no idea why they would be billing you because you don’t have an AT&T account.

We know how scary and frustrating this feeling can be because we’ve been there. Here’s our personal account of such an incident, along with our research on what you can do to recover from it, as well as prevent it from recurring.

AT&T Wireless Account Opened In My Name

Phone call from unknown number on iphone (Caption: AT&T Fraud: How To Prevent)

I’m subscribed to LifeLock for ID theft monitoring. Occasionally alerts go off, such as those for dark web monitoring (my email address has been used somewhere, or a data breach has resulted in compromised data, and I need to reset my password, etc.). But by far, the most annoying and time-consuming so far have been multiple alerts that an AT&T Wireless account was opened in my name, with an exact match on my full name, date of birth, and social security number.

What’s even more irritating is that I have credit freezes and security alerts on all my accounts to prevent this from happening again. Clearly, AT&T is more interested in new business than they are their potential customers’ data safety. My experience with AT&T goes way back to landlines decades ago and, more recently, wireless accounts. Those have all been closed for years, along with a botched Internet installation, because from my experience of them wasting hours, no make that days, weeks, and possibly even months of my time with their abhorrent customer service.

LifeLock Alert Details

If you’re curious, here’s what the alert looked like that came in:

  • Date the incident occurred
  • Type: New Application
  • Category: Utility Telecommunications/Cellular
  • Merchant: ATT Wireless
  • Full match on name, DOB, and SSN

My next step was to respond to the LifeLock alert, letting them know that, no, this was not me that opened this account. That begins their fraud investigation process. Immediately after this, I checked to see if my credit freezes and security alerts were still intact by checking my credit reports with Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. To my astonishment, they were, which to me puts into serious question AT&T’s business practices.

Checking Your Credit Reports For Free

Once a year, you can visit AnnualCreditReport.com and request copies of your credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Transunion, and Equifax), for free. You’ll be able to view and download your reports and investigate any activity (credit inquiries) that may have taken place as a result of the fraud incident.

The actual account opening at the time had only shown up on the Experian report as a “soft inquiry.”

Soft Vs Hard Credit Inquiry

A hard credit inquiry is when a lender checks your credit before approving you for a loan, such as a mortgage or a car loan, or a credit card you’ve applied for. A soft inquiry happens when you receive an offer from a lender, like a pre-approved credit card, or when you check your own credit.

My Experience With LifeLock

LifeLock called me the same day, and I called back to have someone answer on literally the second ring. I advised them of the steps I had taken (including having already called AT&T per my account below), and they offered to get on the phone with the credit companies with me on a conference call. After several tries of that not working, I decided to just inquire into the credit forms myself.

The AT&T Global Fraud Department

Last time (a couple of years ago), I called the AT&T Global Fraud Department (877-844-5584) for a fraudulent account opening; someone answered and addressed my issue (after a good amount of waiting on hold). This time, I received a message saying their Fraud Department could not handle all the calls, so the only way to submit a fraud report was to use their online form. Typing in the online form based on their instructions did not work, but after some research, I learned that the actual AT&T Mobile Fraud Inquiry Form resides here.

My Experience With AT&T

After completing that form, I received the following email:

Thank you for contacting Global Fraud Management.  We have received your Mobility Fraud Inquiry Request.  Your Incident number is #.  Please be advised that we are addressing requests in the order in which they are received.

We strongly urge you to submit only one request.  We are doing our best to service customers quickly and efficiently, but responses could take up to 5 business days.

AT&T
Global Fraud Management

This email box is not monitored.  Please do not reply to this email.  Replies will be automatically deleted.

To their credit, I received the fraud investigation results 3 days later:

AT&T has completed an investigation of the referenced account.  AT&T has confirmed that the account was created without your authorization.  AT&T has cancelled the unauthorized account and credits will be issued for any charges incurred.

We have also contacted the credit bureau(s) utilized by AT&T and reported this inquiry as fraudulent. Please be aware that credit inquiries performed by AT&T after June 30, 2020 are now considered a “soft” credit inquiry and will not impact your credit score. The credit inquiry is visible only to you the consumer as a matter of record. Soft credit checks remain visible to you so that you can keep track of credit events even though there is no impact.

However, if the Bureau determines there is a hard inquiry associated with this fraudulent account, they will be responsible for changing it to a soft credit inquiry.  Please be aware that it may take up to 90 days for the credit bureaus to process AT&T’s request.  Further, please note that AT&T has no control over how credit bureaus respond to this request.

You may use this letter as confirmation of our findings and of the corrective action we are taking.

Due to this issue you may decide to place a Fraud Alert on your credit file with the credit bureaus.

Fake AT&T Texts

The AT&T texts were a little easier to deal with – typically, they are “spam” or “phishing” attempts trying to either get me to sign up for a fake product or service or, worse, find a way to gather my personal information. I’ve written up a little section on text fraud in my how to spot a fake website article if you’d like to learn more.

In Conclusion

The bottom line here is that it’s a must these days to have some form of credit monitoring or ID theft monitoring (typically includes credit monitoring) in place. Because otherwise, I may not have been aware that this account was opened. Clearly, AT&T does not heed the freezes and fraud alerts on credit files, despite their recommendation to put them in place as a preventative measure. Worse, I’ve heard stories where unsuspecting consumers had not only accounts opened but corresponding bills and collection attempts conducted by AT&T for accounts that were opened in an unauthorized fashion.

Receive an unsolicited call or text purporting to be from AT&T? Let us know in the comments!

Alex Schenker

Alex holds BS degrees in Management Science from the University of California at San Diego, and Computer Science from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He is honored to share his nearly two decades of experience in home security and automation, cybersecurity and identity theft protection with our readers. He realized it was time for a home security system when his neighbor’s house got broken into. He has tried to stay ahead of the curve by proactively applying security technologies and software that protect not only his home and family but his personal identity, sensitive information and finances. In his spare time, Alex enjoys playing tennis, going on hikes with his wife and dogs and surfing.

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