Most months, the phone bill for Michael Smith’s small Ipswich manufacturing firm runs about $700.
But one weekend in 2009, phone hackers somehow managed to use his phone system to make hundreds of calls to the African nation of Somalia.
Since then, Smith, the owner of Todd Tool and Abrasive Systems on Route 1, has been fighting a David vs. Goliath battle against AT&T.
They’re suing him for more than $1.15 million — you read that right — in charges and interest for a four-day period in September 2009 when someone managed to rack up $891,470 in phone calls.
Smith never had a contract for phone service from AT&T, which was apparently used by the hackers as a “dial around” long-distance service.
In the comments to that story, someone else posted a link to this related story (note that both stories are dated on the same day:
AT&T said today it will drop its lawsuit against an Ipswich manufacturer following a legal showdown in which the telecommunications giant said Todd Tool and Abrasives was responsible for paying a nearly $900,000 phone bill for international calls made to Somalia even though its phone system was hacked.
Hmmm. I wonder why they decided to drop the suit? And is it just coincidence that this was announced on the same day as the release of the article making the whole fiasco public?
A few other tidbits in the first article may shed some light:
When contacted by The Salem News for comment, an AT&T spokeswoman would not discuss the case.
“We have no comment on pending litigation,” Kate MacKinnon said.
Smith…said he was also warned by lawyers for AT&T that they would take action if he “disparaged” the company’s name in the media.
It seems to me that, whether they had legitimate legal grounds for the case or not, AT&T knew that they were on shaky moral ground and that if the case became public knowledge, it would do huge damage to their reputation…especially if it went viral as stories like this are wont to do in today’s era of instant communication.
So, as soon as they got wind that a news outlet was writing a story about it, they began damage control and started working on dropping the case.
Basically, this was nothing more than an attempted shakedown. If they could have gotten a settlement done before it went public, they would have scored big. Since they were obviously ready to drop the case on short notice if it threatened to bite them, as soon as it went public, they dropped the hot potato, no harm, no foul right?
Well, there is the small matter of $30k in legal fees for the small company that was being bullied, but hey, them’s the breaks right?.
The deeper question is: how many times have they gotten away with this scam? They miscalculated on this one…there is no way that a small, 14 employee company could have paid them over a million dollars and not gone under, but how many $100, $1,000, $10,000 shakedowns have they gotten away with because it was cheaper for the victim to pay them off than it was for them to fight?
How is it even POSSIBLE for someone to call AT&T from a phone system that AT&T has no contract with, place international phone calls and have them charged directly to the phone? That AT&T even provides this ability is a recipe for fraud and abuse.
That would be like your car dealership giving the keys to your car to someone else, and then trying to hold you responsible when they use the car to rob a bank.
I don’t care if AT&T did drop the case as soon as it started to look like it was going to go public. People need to be made aware of this.
Beware of AT&T, they will rip you off, even if you are not a customer.
This is a company that needs to be driven out of business before they destroy more small businesses and more people’s lives.