I tried to recover my hacked Vodafone account and you won’t believe what happened next

Updated 06/08/2015 – scroll to the bottom to find out how Vodafone eventually responded

Yes, one of those headlines – chosen specifically because I’d like this message to get to as many people as possible. I hope you’ll indulge me.

I’ve spent nearly six hours today trying to recover my Vodafone pay as you go (PAYG) account. I don’t spend a lot on my phone – I get a £10 topup every month, and that’s it – but I thought it wasn’t unreasonable to expect a basic level of customer service for my money. Turns out I was wrong.

101 topups, and none of them mine

It started at 8.00 a.m. when I woke to find eleven unread emails sitting in my account. All of them were from Vodafone, and all of them said “Thanks for choosing Vodafone. You’ve topped up your Vodafone mobile number (random phone number) online with (amount between £5 and £10).” At first I assumed this was a phishing scam, but a quick check confirmed that they were genuine Vodafone emails.

I immediately assumed my account had been hacked, and I changed my password. But the emails kept coming. I tried to ring Vodafone’s customer service but was unable to navigate through to an actual human being, so I tried the ‘live chat’ feature on their website. When I eventually got through I was told that I needed to create a new online account – which I did.

But the unauthorised topups kept coming. By 9 a.m. there were thirty emails and I had finally managed to get through to a human being on the phone, but I had a hard time making the problem understood to them. I spoke to two different people who thought I was having problems adding credit to my account, and one guy who tried to sell me a phone contract, before I was finally put through to the fraud team.

Passing the buck

The fraud team’s response? “Oh, that’s nothing to do with me, buddy. We don’t talk to customers, and anyway, that doesn’t even sound like fraud. You probably should talk to your bank.” I explained that I had already spoken to my bank, to check that no money had actually come out, but that they (quite rightly, in my view) advised me that this was a Vodafone matter.

The incredibly unhelpful man at the fraud team put me back through to customer service. The next person I spoke to told me to change my password which would solve the problem. I demanded to speak to a manager.

The manager was very polite and seemed sincere, but kept telling me that the only thing in his power to do was to reset my online password. Since I had already done this – not to mention had an entirely new account created – I told him not to bother.

Back on to live chat. The new person I spoke to (maybe the fifth representative I’d spoken to that morning) finally seemed to catch on to what was happening, and promised me that it was a ‘glitch’ which he had corrected, and that no new topups would come through. He told me it would take less than fifteen minutes to take effect.

Just over an hour later, the unauthorised topup emails broke past the 100 barrier and I contacted support yet again, advising them that I’d kick up a social media storm if this wasn’t resolved. He seemed to have little idea what I was on about, and in fact I’m not sure that I was talking to a human being at all. Once again I was finally told that these emails would stop immediately.

That was an hour ago. The emails still keep coming. I have advised my bank to reverse any topups that come through from Vodafone, but the final insult came when I phoned Vodafone for the last time, and was told that “If the unauthorised topup emails bother you, consider deactivating your email address.”

Needless to say, I won’t be a Vodafone customer for much longer.

Where next?

I don’t usually bother complaining about anything. I’m a laid-back sort of person, and having worked in many customer service jobs (including at a major phone retailer) I understand that the customer is not always right, and that a combination of user error and misunderstanding actually accounts for many perceived issues. But this is different. This is an example of a mobile phone network simply not being bothered to help me – either that or massive, systemic incompetence. Maybe it’s because I’m a PAYG customer so not worth much to them? Either way, I’ll never deal with Vodafone again.

I’m very angry about this, more for the impact on my time than anything else, and I’m hoping this message goes far and wide. Please share.

Transcripts

Here’s the first chat transcript (about the fifth guy I spoke to)

And the second chat transcript

Vodafone’s response

After kicking up a storm on Twitter, and personally emailing the CEO of Vodafone, I was eventually contacted by someone a little more senior who sounded like she knew what she was talking about. This was actually the first person I’d spoken to who seemed capable of speaking for herself without using a script, too.

I explained the problem and she got a team of engineers on it, after I forwarded some of the emails I’d been getting. The problem was eventually resolved at 13.20 today after 690 unauthorised topup emails from Vodafone.

So, the problem was eventually resolved – but in my view it isn’t a good thing that it took so long for it to be sorted out, and I am left with the distinct sense that it would simply never have been dealt with had I not made a nuisance of myself.

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