Hacked

Remarks:
This was originally posted at my MTP on February 16, 2010. (journal/item/385)


Not sure what to call it.
Fraud, Scam, Forgery, Usurpation, Theft, Robbery ...?
Whatever that was, I only knew that we were HACKED.

In January a lady called and said she was from "CAT" ( = the telephone company that takes care of international phone calls). She warned me of the unusal increase in  the international calls made from my phones (landlines).

That was strange! Lately I had not made any international calls, not even sending a fax to overseas, nor had anyone in my family done that. These days we email, and we send emails all the time! I seldom chat but my sons like to chat when they are online. And there is skype. Why would we make ( expensive 001~ ) international calls then?

The lady suggested to disable making international calls from my phones. As I was not sure whether she was really from CAT, and as this disabling that she suggested did not involve my giving out any info to her I replied OK, why not.

She told me to watch out for the phone bill and to contact CAT for further action. I said thank you, I will.

Several weeks passed with nothing exciting happened.

Last  Friday, when I almost forgot about this, the international phone bill arrived.

My goodness, the CAT lady was right! There were many calls, among them a few lasted as long as an hour! The amount of money on the bill was higher than  a worker's 4-week full-time minimum wages in this country.

The  strangest thing is ALL the 14 calls  from both my landlines were made early in the morning on one Sunday to the same number in "Liechtenstein".

( Where the heck is this country? Is it a country? And how do you pronounce it?! )

We have two landlines. One is connected to the internet.
If only the number that connected to the internet had appeared on the bill I would have suspected that either the boys or their dad were scammed. But both numbers appeared and the usage all happened on one Sunday morning.  Very early at dawn.

I asked everyone in the family. They said they did not make any international calls -- and certainly not on Sunday morning when they often sleep late! 

My guess is our phone lines were somehow "HACKED".

Fortunately CAT had already halted the international calls from these two numbers a month earlier. The "damage" was, therefore, rather "limited".

I contacted CAT and was advised to fax a letter and every page of the bill to them to request for an investigation. 

It will take one or two months ( or more ) to know the result, said CAT.

Gawsh, this slow?!?!

I also called the bank to ask for the way to stop this payment from my account. The bank told me I had to fill in some form in order to stop it.

On Chinese New Year's Eve we went to the police with that phone bill. The policemen listened to us and helped us to file a complaint. It took a while for us to go from room to room to get the incident written in details and signed and stamped.

One policeman said, he was not sure, but CAT might charge us as usual -- before they  could finish their investigation, which might take up quite a long time.   If I don't pay within time there might be an extra charge added to the bill for delayed payment, too, he said.

He told me I had better contact CAT as soon as possible to effectively stop them from taking money away from my bank account and to stop them from charging me any extra fees for my delayed payment -- that is, if eventually I had to pay for these mysterious calls.

We thanked them, got back home, wrote the request letter, and faxed all the documents -- including the police paper -- to CAT.

On Monday morning I went to the bank.

At the bank, to my surprise, there was some hassle regarding cancellation of overseas phone payment from my account.

At first the young bank clerk told me I had to fill out an application form to request a cancellation of the overseas phone bill payment from my bank account. "But  unfortunately at the moment we have no such form left," she said.

"Where can I get the form?" I asked.

"CAT's office," she said. But she was not sure where the nearest branch was. And I only knew that CAT's head office was on the other side of the great metropolitan of Bangkok!   That means hours of travel on the often jammed roads.

I called CAT again for assistance.  CAT people said: "The bank should have some sort of such forms."   I passed the words to the bank clerk, to which she replied: "But, the form for CAT is different from the form for domestic calls, water, and electricity."

( WTH )

I put a nice smile on my face and asked her to please talk to CAT directly so that I could find out where ( the hell ) I could get a form to fill in. I made the call for her - using my cellphone...   It took a while as usual as the number was CAT's machine-answered call-center.

Finally there was a human at the other end answering my call.  I  simply said: "One moment, please," and quickly handed my cellphone to the bank clerk.

In a very sweet but authoritative tone she asked CAT to fax the application form to the bank "immediately".   She sounded so professionally demanding!   Way to go, Girl!

CAT people must have said OK or yes ma'am to her.   The bank clerk told me to wait for a while. I therefore waited ( and waited )...

I was about to regret not having brought Morgan Sportes's 700-page book with me when her superior told her to check the fax machine.

The form arrived! Yay!

I filled it out as instructed. The clerk signed the form, gave it back to me, and told me to hand in the form, the bill, my ID, and my bank book to the older lady on the other end of the long counter. 

I brought everything to that lady and handed in everything -- including the police doc.

It seemed the lady had not expected the police doc. She appeared a little surprised, took a quick look of that, photocopied everything, and put all the documents together.

She also made a call ( I guess ) to CAT.
She returned all the docs to me -- except the phone bill.

I was glad I had photocopied all the papers last night for my own keep!

The lady said it would take time but I did not have to pay for the bill while this was under CAT's investigation. And there certainly would not be any extra delayed payment charges added to my "bill" if ( -- IF -- ) eventually it turned out that I had to pay.

Well... that sounded very good!

I left the counter and went to the ATM machine to move most of my deposit out of that account so as to be sure that nobody could deduct any money from me against my wish.

When I was almost done with the depositing of my money to another account of mine, guess what? CAT lady called!   This soon?! Another surprise!

She said she had received the fax that I sent to CAT yesterday. She said her team would check on this and would let me know what exactly had happened.

Gosh, I wished I had heard this a day  or even an hour or two earlier so that I did not have to waste my time at the bank!

I asked her if I had to pay for this bill before things were clear.
"No, you don't have to", she assured me.

Good! Thank you!

Her assurance made me almost forget that I was still in the ( sometimes pretty corrupted ) Third World.

But I would have been happier if I had heard a word of apology....!

Oh well.... Never mind.

Happy (belated) Chinese New Year....! present



My advice:

1.   Always keep a copy of your documents.
2.   Contact the police  immediately when you have found something illegally wrong.


Comments - a
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The links in the comments above:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liechtenstein
http://www.answers.com/Liechtenstein?gwp=11&ver=2.3.0.609&method=3

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