About two months ago a letter from Telstra arrived in my letterbox. It was addressed to someone I don’t know but used my correct street address. I thought of writing ‘not at this address – return to sender’ on it, but that is completely ineffective. I still get mail addressed to previous occupants of my property even though I have lived here for 5 years. Corporations don’t use returned mail to update their records.
I knew I would have to open the letter and use the information it contained to fix the problem. It was a welcoming letter confirming the creation of a new mobile phone account. I was concerned about identity theft and the potential for the malicious use of my address to run up debt that lazy corporations may try to hold me accountable for. The letter contained details about a customer service email address, so I wrote an email explaining the details and asking them to investigate the correct address and fix their records.
Of course I never got a response, and over a month later the first bill for this account arrived at my address. It was for over $1000. I realised I had little choice but to call Telstra customer service and attempt to get them to fix the problem. Calling customer service at Telstra is the closest thing to legal torture in Australia.
I call, mumble my way through the automated voice prompts to make it direct my call to a human unit, and explain the situation. The unit claims to understand the scope of the issue, but demands my date of birth so he can log into my account. No, I say. This is not about my account. This is about my street address in someone else’s account. You don’t even know whether I have an account with you.
I refused to give my date of birth and offered instead the street address. The unit refused to accept that he was asking the wrong question, so I demanded to speak to his supervisor. He refused this, saying he would speak to him, and he put me on hold for several minutes while he did so. When he returned he again tried to get my account details and I again refused.
He then told me to take the letter to the post office to do a ‘not at this address – return to sender’. No, I said. It’s not the post office’s problem. It’s your problem and you have to take responsibility for it. The best case scenario for you is that this is the result of a typo that you must correct. The worst case scenario is that it is a case of deliberate fraud. You must take this more seriously.
I demanded to speak to the supervisor again. The unit agreed and put me on hold, then I got the supervisor. The superior unit came up with the amazing idea of getting the account number for the mobile account from me so they could call the customer and check the address. Just as I suggested they do in my email weeks ago. Fucking brilliant. And the superior unit acknowledged they didn’t need to verify my account to do this.
Of course they do know that I have an account with them because I was using my home phone to make the call, and that apparently is displayed in their call system. But that is not the point. The point is that Telstra are lazy morons who don’t care about the risk of fraud or identity theft and who want to avoid taking responsibility for their own errors.
Artist Judy Horacek also has an absurd story to tell about Telstra’s indifferent attitude to identity theft.