Optus Data Breach: Customers Denied Compensation and Cannot Change Mobile Numbers
Optus customers are outraged after finding little support from the telecommunications giant in the days following a massive hack into their personal information.
In one case, Optus refused to compensate a customer for completing a $15 credit check and in another, a young mum found she was unable to change her cell phone number to better protect herself without paying. a fee of approximately $1,000 to switch providers.
On Thursday, Optus revealed that around 9.8 million Australians had potentially fallen victim to a massive cyberattack which resulted in the theft of their names, emails, phone numbers, date of birth, addresses and, in some cases, even driver’s license and passport numbers.
And on Saturday, a hacker claiming to be behind the breach issued a $1.5 million ransom demand to Optus, threatening to release everyone’s data if not followed up within the next week. .
The company’s CEO issued an emotional apology on national television, but two customers who news.com.au spoke to said they were “disappointed”.
James*, who preferred to remain anonymous, learned he had been affected by the data breach and was quick to protect his identity and his money.
But the Sydneysider, 35, said the response he received from Optus was “despicable”.
James told news.com.au he was “forced to set up” an identity theft monitoring account through credit-checking agency Equifax, which costs $15 a month.
But when he asked Optus to cover the costs, a worker told him he was not entitled to any compensation.
In a live chat, the telecommunications staff member wrote: “I hear you are concerned about the security of your account, and I’m sorry you had to contact us today.
“Unfortunately, we are unable to offer any compensation for the inconvenience. I can assure you that Optus has taken immediate steps to secure your account and protect the privacy of each customer, if you are concerned, Optus will contact you soon.
James was not happy.
“It’s a pretty despicable act as a business to allow a breach to happen and then refuse to help customers protect themselves when they’ve put those customers at risk,” he said. at news.com.au.
RELATED: What to Do If You’re Affected by the Optus Cyber Attack
Optus chief executive Kelly Bayer-Rosmarin apologized for the cyber intrusion during a conference call with reporters on Friday, saying “it shouldn’t have happened.”
“I’m disappointed we couldn’t prevent it,” she said.
“It undermines all the great work we’ve done to be a pioneer in this industry, to be a challenger and to create new and wonderful experiences for our customers. I am really sorry.”
Ms Bayer-Rosmarin urged customers to monitor suspicious contacts in the near future, fearing that bad actors who gain access to stolen data could use it to make fraudulent calls.
“What customers can do is just be vigilant,” she said.
“It’s really about heightened vigilance and being alert to any activity that seems suspicious or strange, or out of the ordinary.
“If someone calls you and says they want to log into your computer, and says give them your password or let them in, don’t let that happen.”
She said passwords and financial details were not compromised, but other sensitive information was stolen.
“We hold a reference to identifying information, whether it is the driver’s license number or the passport number. This is the area that has been compromised,” she said.
“I want to again reassure people that they don’t have any images of any of these documents, nor any bank details or passwords.”
Olivia*, who also preferred to remain anonymous, from Launceston was left in limbo after Optus was unable to change her phone number.
The mother-of-one, 38, discovered the data breach on Thursday evening after reading an article from news.com.au.
Worried, the Tasmanian resident contacted the Optus helpline who assured her she had not been involved in the breach.
But a day later, like millions of other Australians, she received a disturbing email in her inbox saying she had indeed had her credentials stolen.
Olivia rushed to prevent her identity from being stolen, spending ‘hours after hours’ changing her details, including passwords to her banking institutions and email address, and registering with IDCare that she had been the victim of identity theft.
“As soon as I could I changed my license number,” she told news.com.au. “By sheer luck someone was still at work (because it was) obviously a Friday afternoon.”
However, the one thing she couldn’t change was her mobile number, and Optus was of no help, according to the mother.
Olivia explained how she desperately wanted to change her cell phone number to prevent her phone from being picked up or called by scammers.
“I had to change everything, because I don’t have faith,” she explained. “Optus says my phone can’t be worn due to two-factor authorization, but how can I trust what they say?”
She saw through information channels that customers could change their mobile phone numbers at an Optus store, but when she went to her nearest Optus branch with 100 points of identification, the staff didn’t couldn’t help her and redirected her to the online web feature.
When she went to live chat, they redirected her to a store.
Essentially, she’s been caught in a catch 22 situation with no idea how she can change her cell phone number.
The predicament left her wanting to switch telecom providers to Telstra, but that would mean paying Optus $1,000 in cancellation fees and paying for a phone.
“It’ll be around $1000, I don’t know why I’m paying for their mistakes,” she said.
“But $1,000 is obviously much less than the hundreds of thousands of dollars they (the cybercriminals) could withdraw on my behalf.”
Olivia filed a complaint with the Telecommunications Ombudsman.
News.com.au has contacted Optus for a comment, but at the time of publication had received no response.
Optus made international headlines for the hack and #Optusfail was trending on Twitter within hours of the breach being revealed.
The telecom giant says 9.8 million accounts may have been compromised while the hacker claims it holds the personal details of 11.2 million people, nearly half of Australia’s population.
Optus customers whose data may have been stolen are urged to:
• Beware of possible fraudulent calls;
• Consider strengthening passwords and other online security measures; and
• Watch for more information from Optus in the coming days.
* Names withheld for confidentiality reasons
If you have been affected by the Optus data breach, email [email protected]