Small business hit with $600,000 of dial-through telecom fraud

A ReMax real estate office in St. Peters is reeling from a $600,000 phone bill.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that owner Melissa Bream says someone hacked her AT&T phone system and used her business line to make over 2,000 international long distance calls to Somalia, Guinea and Azerbaijan. She says she at first got no where in trying to work with the phone company and had to hire a lawyer and work with law enforcement to work on getting the charges removed from her bill.

The illegal phone calls took place on a Saturday, when only one employee was present in the office. The phones constantly rang but there were no responses when the calls were answered. Charter and AT&T both contacted Bream’s office notifying them of the unusual activity that they had noticed.

On Monday, Bream requested the company that performed the phone system installation to instill new security measures, including international call blocking. The problem was resolved—temporarily—until Bream began to receive the bills from the providers.

There were eight bills that totaled over $600,000:

  • $5.90 from Sprint
  • $320 from Vartek
  • $14,234.09 from Charter
  • $586,371.26 from AT&T (resulting from five bills combined)

Bream’s fraud occurrence is not uncommon among small businesses or enterprises. Small businesses are often targeted by fraudsters and are unaware of the potential fraud risk that their phone systems pose.