Identity thief runs up $4000 phone bill
By Alex Easton
SARA HUBBLE was shocked when hit with a phone bill for nearly $4000 but not nearly as shocked as when she learned it was for a phone she'd never owned and from a phone company she'd never subscribed to.
The 23-year-old Ballina resident got the nasty news on Wednesday night when debt collection agency, Baycorp Advantage, called to demand she cough up $3833.60 she was supposed to have racked up on a Telstra mobile phone.
The trouble was, Ms Hubble has never had a mobile phone from Telstra and had never even been to the Ewingsdale address listed as the phone's billing address.
Ms Hubble has since reported the matter to the police and started trying to work out precisely how someone managed to rack up such a massive phone bill in her name.
Inquiries with Telstra and Baycorp revealed the bill included information on her that could have come from her driver's licence, which she misplaced on a night out at Byron Bay about a year ago.
She had long since reported the licence as lost and had it replaced, but Ms Hubble said the information about her held by Telstra and Baycorp included her full name, her date of birth and her Ballina address.
However, the information also included a second address, 21 Parkway Drive, Ewingsdale, which was listed as a billing address and which a resident of the street, Bernard Grinberg, said was an empty lot.
Telstra told her the phone had been active on a $79 plan from May to September.
Despite the massive bill, the identity thief had never made a call from the phone or taken a call directly to the phone, using it instead to catch calls diverted from another number.
It was those diverted calls, the precise number of which was not known, that generated the huge bill.
A Telstra spokeswoman was unable to say how common such cases were. However, Richmond Local Area Command crime prevention officer, Senior Constable Michael Hogan, said he was aware of 'a few' similar cases.
The Telstra spokeswoman said the company would co-operate with any police investigation and waive all charges if the identity theft could be proven.
Telstra used a '100 point' system, similar to that used by banks, to prevent identity theft, she said.