Jeff Nachreiner is used to dealing with loss. On a daily basis, the president of Property Loss Specialist handles insurance claims and the word is one of three in the company’s name.
What the Oregon businessman didn’t expect is his business losing money out of its own pockets, especially for something like phone calls.
”Once this was taken out of our account, I mean, that is a lot of money that we just didn't have to pay on a phone bill,” Nachreiner said.
And that was the problem, Nachreiner said. He said as of Sunday, he hasn’t seen a cent of the money he was told would never be taken from his account.
Nachreiner said a Charter representative called in December to warn him that he may receive an unexpectedly large phone bill and that the money would not be withdrawn from his account.
Nachreiner said he was still shocked to see just how much the charge was for. According to the bill, a monthly bill for phone and Internet services that usually costs slightly more than $200 came in at $11,177.
“I'm shocked that it's $11,000 for a phone bill,” Nachreiner said. “I've just never seen something that big.”
The majority of the charges were for fraudulent phone calls made to Guinea. The bill included pages of those long distance dials, with multiple calls happening within a minute. Nachreiner said a scammer hacked into the business’s voicemail and managed to forward all of the calls to Africa.
“Looking at all of the records, these calls were made seconds after each other. You know, multiple,” Nachreiner explained. “In one minute, we would find five or six phone calls.”
Nachreiner didn’t worry about it initially, since Charter told him his company credit card would not be charged.
However, Nachreiner said about two weeks ago that card was maxed out by the Charter bill. He wasn’t able to make other important payments because of it, and there were also problems with his payroll thanks to the charge.
“This is not a $100 cable bill that went wrong,” Nachreiner said. “This is a very large charge that many other people could be dealing with.”
Nachreiner said he has called Charter at least five times over the past two weeks. He was told each time that the only person who could handle the situation was on vacation.
“There's no way I could run a business like that,” Nachreiner said. “If I did that to my customers and I wouldn't call them back for two weeks, I wouldn't be in the job, and we wouldn't have employees.”
Charter regional communications director Kim Haas said the hack is not a widespread issue, and there are only a few other isolated reports.
In a statement from Charter, a representative said the company will work with customers to ensure maximum security. The statement added “more awareness is needed on the importance of strong passwords and voicemail PINs”.
The statement said, “When and if hacking does occur, we assure our customers that any charges made from their account to no fault of their own will be credited back.”
Nachreiner said the vice president of customer care for Charter Business told him to expect his account to be reimbursed in the next couple of days.
In the meantime, Nachreiner is looking to make some changes to his accounts and what companies are earning his business.
“I'm probably going to change credit card companies regarding my business since they didn't really try to protect me as well as I would hope for. And I'm probably going to be switching phone companies at this time,” Nachreiner said.’
Charter is encouraging business owners and others to consider the following tips to protect themselves from similar hacking situations:
• Use strong PINs. Charter advises business customers to change their voicemail PIN to one that is at least 8-10 digits long as a preventative measure for any future fraud.
• Use strong portal passwords. Charter advises business customers to create strong portal passwords that are 8-10 characters long with a mix of upper/lower case, numbers, symbols, etc.
• If a customer has concerns about the security of their phone system, we encourage them to give us a call at 1-800-314-7195. Charter Business has 24x7 U.S.-based customer support and our technical advisors can work with customers to review their account and discuss.