Renton non-profit billed thousands for calls they didn't make


by KING 5 News

Posted on August 10, 2012 at 10:29 AM

Vicki Swan works for RAYS, Renton Area Youth and Family Services.  The organization provides counseling services for those in need.

“This is a get to the meat of the world job and how we service people,” said Vicki.  Vicki’s job is to keep the non-profit’s books balanced, something she says can be difficult in a tough economy.  “We are a break even organization.”

In June, RAYS received an unexpected letter that almost broke the bank.  It was a $3,400 bill from their phone provider, Integra Telecom. It appeared the organization’s phone system had been hacked.

“The phones were completely screwed up, commensurate with the hacking,” said Vicki.  “They couldn’t even get us local calling capabilities.”

Vicki called Integra and was told someone had been making hundreds of calls to East Timor, an island just south of Indonesia. But according to the non-profit’s contract, international calls are supposed to be blocked.

“We never, ever, since we’ve been at this agency, had a need for international calling,” said Vicki.

Vicki says a technician from Integra told her the organization wouldn’t be charged for the calls.  But they were still hit with the bill. 

“I was furious,” said Vicki.

Vicki contacted Get Jesse and a call was made to Integra who says the group is a victim of toll fraud. Toll Fraud happens when someone illegally accesses a company’s phone system. 

In a statement, Integra says:

“Our customer was a victim of toll fraud, a criminal act by which phone services are stolen by illegally accessing a company’s on-premises phone systems. While we discovered the unusual call volume when the fraud occurred, shut down the phone service and notified the customer immediately, we regret our oversight in not activating international call blocking features as requested. We have agreed to refund all charges associated with the toll fraud, and we continuously monitor and incorporate industry best practices to help our customers keep their phone systems secured.”

Consumers should also know that home phones can also be compromised. Scammers will hack your security code for your voicemail and manipulate the system to accept collect calls. Then, when the connection is made, the bad guys can make as many calls as they want and leave you with the bill. The best defense is to use a complex password on your voice mail system.