Comcast fails to stop scammers from opening 15 accounts in California using same stolen Social Security number

by Chris Morran, Consumerist

Social-Security-cardsA California woman recently found out she couldn’t open a Comcast account in her name because she owed the cable company a lot of money…even though she’d never been a customer before. She eventually found out that Comcast had allowed people to use her social security number to open up more than a dozen accounts, and then sent a collection agency after her to make her pay for the company’s failure to catch these scammers.

The woman, named Marjorie, tells KGO-TV’s Michael Finney, that other people began illegally using her Social Security number, along with variations on her first name — Marge, Margie, Margaret — to open Comcast accounts all around Northern California.

“I know that two addresses in Oakland were used and the first time I talked to Comcast they said that accounts had been opened in Dublin and Pleasanton and Berkeley and kind of all over the East Bay,” she recalls.

Somehow, the repeated use of the SSN did nothing to trip off alarm bells at Comcast, but when the actual Marjorie used her actual info to open her first Comcast account, she was told she owed $1,500.

Even after she explained to Comcast that these were fraudulent accounts the cable company demanded payment and sent a collection agency after her for money she didn’t owe. “I got really nervous and scared,” she tells Finney. “I had heard things happening with debt collection agencies that follow you for the rest of your life.”

As happens, once Finney and his 7 On Your Side team contacted Comcast, the cable company was suddenly apologetic and said it would call off the debt collector dogs.

So why could so many accounts — Marjorie claims it was 15; Comcast says it was fewer, but won’t give a number — be opened using the same SSN?

According to the Comcast brain trust, its system didn’t catch the multiple uses of the same Social Security number because customers sometimes open multiple accounts. However, it claims to have put something in place (I think it’s called “common sense”) to help prevent this from happening in the future.