Beware of hoaxers posing as rogue Comcast reps

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It started with a message to @Comcastcares, the Twitter account for Comcast’s customer service department.

“Without a doubt the worst customer service I’ve experienced,” wrote Ryon Nishimori. “Google fiber can’t come to Nashville soon enough.”

Turns out Comcast was watching.

But apparently, so was someone else.

What follows is easily one of the most bizarre epilogues to an already bizarre story about bad customer service. It involves harassing phone calls, threats to cut off service and the use of unusually vulgar language, even by Internet standards.

Oh, and it’s all a hoax, according to Comcast.

Shortly after he Tweeted out to @comcastcares, Nishimori received a call from a representative who claimed to work for Comcast.

“At first he was very nice and seemed to have the details of my account,” recalls Nishimori, who works for a record store in Nashville. “All of a sudden, somebody else hopped on the call, saying he was a supervisor.”

And here’s where things got a little strange.

“Outrageous and insulting”

“He immediately took over and asked if I’d like him to explain Comcast’s service fees. I said, ‘No thank you,’ but he did anyways. And his words were, ‘We are Comcast, and we can charge you whatever the f**k we want’,” he says.

Nishimori was shocked and he began recording the conversation. In it, multiple “representatives” used language so highly inappropriate and deeply offensive that I’m uncomfortable even alluding to it on this site.

“They were pretty outrageous and completely insulting,” he says. “They included physical threats, sexual threats, threats of charging my account for things, as well as threats to go after my workplace.”

After listening to the tapes several times and speaking with Nishimori, I contacted Comcast on his behalf. A representative responded shortly afterward and promised the company’s security department would investigate. Within 24 hours, Comcast’s sleuthing had revealed the call was a hoax.

How could they be sure? The call had originated in Ontario, Canada. Comcast doesn’t have a call center there. It also reached Nishimori just after midnight. Comcast doesn’t make follow-up calls to customers in the early morning hours. And then there was, of course, the content of the call, which was highly unusual for a call center — even Comcast’s.

“It’s a hoax,” says Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Khoury. “Someone is impersonating a Comcast employee.”

I decided to ignore this prank as a one-off.

Except it wasn’t.

“This b*tch wants us to pay to fix her ceiling”

A few days later, I heard from Dana McMahan, a writer who lives in Louisville and is restoring a 100-year-old home in Detroit with her husband. Last Friday, a Comcast representative showed up to install a box on the third floor of the house.

“The guy figured he could run a splitter from the already active box on the second floor below, proceeded to whip out a drill and bore a hole, without measuring or double-checking the location below,” she says. “And voilà: Our just replastered ceiling below sported a hole with a black cable dangling from it.”

She asked Comcast to help her repair the ceiling. And here, as I like to say, is where things got interesting.

In an effort to avoid dealing with Comcast’s call center, she sent a tweet to the company, attaching a photo of the damage.

“Sure enough, a man called, identified himself as Bryan with Comcast and asked me to explain the tweet, which I did,” she says.

To which he replied, “I don’t see what the problem is. Just move the TV a few inches.”

That didn’t work for her, and finally, after a brief argument, he said, “To be honest, nobody cares about your ceiling.”

McMahan asked to speak with a supervisor. “Bryan” agreed.

I went on hold, but his conversation wasn’t muted.

“Hey Mike, look at this,” he said. “This is hilarious. This b*tch wants us to pay to fix her ceiling. Should I charge her extra for the tech visit?”

Bryan didn’t realize McMahan was recording the call. She confronted Bryan about his inappropriate language, but he simply ignored her, saying he had not authorized the recording of the call.

“You know, we’ve dealt with things I could never have imagined in working on this house, but this has honestly been the most flabbergasting of all,” she says.

Again, I checked with Comcast. And again, it claimed this was a prank.

As far as I can tell, here’s how they do it: The hoaxers monitor the public @Comcastcares feed, looking for complaints. They run a search on a customer’s Twitter account. Often they turn up cell phone numbers, as they did in McMahan’s and Nishimori’s case. Then they call the number, pretending to be Comcast representatives. And you know the rest.

Who’s doing this? Well, this is a lot like Murder on the Orient Express, the famous Agatha Christie novel. A better question is, who wouldn’t do it? Disgruntled former call center workers? Angry customers? Anti-merger activists? College students on spring break?

So someone is out to make Comcast look even worse than they already do? That’s hardly news. But the fact that you could be sucked into this little game is noteworthy.

You can avoid it by not posting any personal information to @Comcastcares or any Twitter account, or anywhere else online for that matter. Not a picture of your house, not your cell phone number. Comcast knows how to contact you. If it needs information via Twitter, you can send Comcast a direct message, as opposed to tweeting it out in public.

“This is a good reminder that customers need to be careful about sharing any personal information on the Internet,” adds Khoury.

If this hoax gets enough traction, it’s possible that it’ll spread beyond Comcast. So if you get a call from any company’s “customer service” department, you might want to remain skeptical.

Ask them to confirm your account number or give you a phone number to call them back. But don’t take their word for it that they work for Comcast. You just might be on the receiving end of a prank.

Does Comcast deserve these hoax callers?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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  • Mike

    The bad press serves Comcast right.

  • Meredith Putvin

    The CUSTOMER does not deserve the level of abuse from the hoaxsters. Ultimately Comcast isn’t the ones suffering, nor do they need faked incidents to further add to an already damaged rep. They do just fine on their own. This is on the level of SWATting which is also setting a dangerous precedent. Someone is doing this for the Lulz and not realizing they are hurting real people.

  • Brooklyn

    I’m not sure I believe the explanation. How do we know that these aren’t actual Comcast employees, perhaps the same ones who think it’s funny to change the name on a customer’s bill to a$$hole?

  • Anything is possible.

  • Michael Goff

    comcastcares_support@comcast.com is the best way to get help from Comcast.

  • MarkKelling

    So how did the prankster get the account details? I doubt that was posted on Twitter.

    Something sounds like Comcast is doing a cover up for their outsourced customer service operations where some of the workers have gone off script. I don’t believe Comcast.

  • Ken

    I think Chris just offended thousands of college students on spring break ;-)

  • Kurt Akemann

    It’s not on the same level as SWATing, if only because its not placing the victim in physical danger. I do agree that this is rotten, and that people are being abused by these hoaxers.

    And the worst thing is that if this keeps going some of the jerks pulling this stunt are going to claim that their action are really “about ethics in customer service”, ala ‘Gamergate’. I wish I was kidding, but people’s capacity to justify their misbehavior is well-nigh infinite.

  • Chris Johnson

    Whether Comcast actually deserves this or not is one thing. The fact is, these bogus calls don’t help anybody and just cause more problems for everyone. Question – call me ignorant but how would you get someone’s phone number from Twitter? Are the customers sending their phone numbers to Comcast over Twitter? Because I sure wouldn’t do that.

  • Mike Z

    People add phone numbers to accounts when they sign up for things and don’t uncheck boxes or change privacy settings and this allows people to see their phone numbers.
    If you have a lot of friends on Facebook, you will see this when you first link an account on your cell phone. You will begin importing all the names and information off your friends list, which includes names, phone numbers, and emails.

  • Zod

    WOW! I guess the saying is correct…you really can’t fix stupid!

  • Rebecca

    I don’t understand why anyone would take the time to do this? Who has nothing better to do than read Comcast tweets and call customers with no intention other than to be nasty? Seriously, I know there’s a lot of weirdos out there, and I do absolutely hate Comcast, but who has the time to do this?

  • We’ve been calling complaining customers for years now over on a prank call network called Prank Call Nation. Yes, we’re jerks. No, we don’t feel bad about it. We have strict rules against calls with threats in them, so any of the calls containing threats of violence or rape are NOT us. We just like to call the customers and see where the calls go. We never have the customers’ Comcast information – most likely the customers just remember the call incorrectly or maybe they embellish it a little to make it seem more scandalous.

    Some of the calls are posted here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLm129DCZJr-g7WYgDT-Y46gdFKp3H0nXQ

  • Freehiker

    So you’d have no problem with anyone making abusive phone calls, or doing other questionable things using your identity, right?

    To say that Comcast deserves it is ludicrous.

  • LeeAnneClark

    My thoughts exactly! While it’s possible these are “pranks”, it sure sounds like somebody went to an awful lot of trouble, just to pretend they are lousy customer service reps. For what?

    If there was a money angle, I would believe it. But they don’t seem to be trying to get money, or doing any phishing. They are just calling and pretending to give REALLY bad customer service.

    I’m skeptical.

  • John Baker

    Never prank called someone as a kid?
    Its as hard as a google search and some basic phishing techniques now days to do this (ie not hard at all for someone with a computer).

    If the call was placed from the area around a Comcast call center or during normal business hours, I might reconsider but do you know any business that is going to call you after midnight?

  • LeeAnneClark

    I think Brad just answered your question below. I’m kinda blown away here…it’s truly mind-boggling that anyone would want to spend a single moment doing something so immature.

  • LeeAnneClark

    John, I actually take back what I said above. Scroll to the bottom and read Brad’s post.

    After reading that, I’m actually at a complete loss for words.

    This is NOT the same as making prank phone calls as a kid. These are adults…or at least, they purport to be. Out of curiosity I listened to the recording he linked to for a few moments, and that ain’t no kid.

    I’m truly gobsmacked.

  • John Baker

    I was thinking more along the lines of stupid, drunk college kid (I gave up pranking long before college).

    Its amazing what some people find entertaining…

    Edit: even worse … They’re a BUSINESS!!!
    http://www.prankcallnation.com/

  • Rebecca

    I’m so blown away I had to use your description because I can’t find my own. How can you actually have nothing better to do? I don’t want to say I appreciate Brad’s post, but I did learn something new online today that doesn’t involve porn!

  • Mel65

    Customers have a right to complain when companies screw up, especially as much as ComCast does. The fact that you employees take a complaint personally enough to call people and verbally abuse them rather than, say, I dunno, TRY TO BE A BETTER REPRESENTATIVE OF YOUR COMPANY, just perpetuates the cycle of bad service –>complaints–>worse service–>more complaints. Yes, you are jerks, and yes you SHOULD be ashamed.

    P.S. Don’t flag me, Brad said “yes, we’re jerks,” so I’m being nice and agreeing with him!

  • No worries. If someone calls himself a jerk, you may refer to him as one. No flag for that.

  • Thanks, Christopher!

  • llandyw

    One of these days, the FBI (or CIA/NSA if the origination point is outside the country) is going to do the pranksters what the pranksters are doing to the customers. They will post to said twitter streams, then when they get called, they’ll keep the pranksters on the line long enough to trace them back. When I see the resulting arrests (and I already know some of the laws that will be cited as being broken), I will be one who is LMAO.

  • MarkKelling

    And that is exactly why I never answer my phone unless I recognize the phone number — I have no time to deal with juvenile pranks.

  • LonnieC

    Seems to me that there a lot of people with far too much time on their hands. What a waste of effort. And for what? I’m sorry, I just don’t get it. What am I missing?

  • Ron Newman

    I’m a super serious blogger I don’t have time for jokes or fun.

  • Ron Newman

    cactus cacus

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    I understand why these guys are doing this, they’re mentally unbalanced. What I don’t understand is why anyone would continue a conversation with them. Just hang up the phone, people. If you can’t bring yourself to be rude, say goodbye first. But get off the phone. If nobody listens to them, they’ll stop calling.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Oh, man… give yourselves a treat. Curator Steve just posted a story in the forums about how Niagara Falls is partially frozen over. In the story, there’s a link to a live feed from a Niagara Falls webcam. The video is gorgeous, and the feed stays on even when you leave the page (just so you leave it open). The roar of the falls is so hypnotic that I may never turn it off. Here’s a link:
    http://www.niagarafallslive.com/niagara_falls_webcam.htm​

  • An Even Newer Alan Gore

    Comcast is rapidly turning into the ISIS of the corporate world. Just when we think it can’t possibly do anything more horrible, it does.

  • Brooklyn

    So, just to be clear, you work for Comcast? Do you do this on company time?

  • John Baker

    Really…. Comcast is cutting off people’s heads, burning them alive, committing rape and forcing women into marriage?

    Comcast stinks but sorry they are no where near a terrorist group.

  • No, I’ve never worked for Comcast. We’ve done this with lots of companies. Comcast just gets the most complaints, so they’re a regular thing. If you look on their Facebook page, there’s a nonstop stream of customer hatred directed at them and a lot of the people posting it have listed home phone service with Comcast.

  • What they would charge me with. Lying? Being a huge jerk?

  • Brooklyn

    Then why make these poor Comcast customers’ lives worse than they already are? Wouldn’t it be better for you to call Comcast, pretend to be a customer and subject its customer service representatives or, if possible, its executives to abuse? There would be a certain Robin Hoodesque quality to that approach.

  • Brooklyn

    I don’t know, but we have lawyers on here and maybe they’ll let us know. Comcast would probably sue you for misrepresenting yourself as its employee. The government might go after you for fraud and maybe obscenity.

  • We’re not ruining lives, we’re just making prank calls. Usually just a single phone call. These customers get upset or confused, but in the end they know it was a prank and they have an insane story to tell their friends and family. Or to run to the media with. You might even say the prankster helped the lady in this story, because when customers get featured on Consumerist and other major news sites, the companies will usually rush to fix their mistakes.

  • mythsayer

    I haven’t listened the calls you linked to, but I do have a couple of questions for you. Are you asking people to pay their bills? Are you threatening them (not threatening to hurt them… just threatening them some other way, like a bad credit score)? What is the end goal here, besides just a laugh for you guys? You must state a purpose to the person who answers the phone, right? Like “you’re past due on your bill, you need to pay” or something like that? Because I could probably come up with several potential crimes…

  • Poopshit

    It’s really easy to find the phone #s to the customer thru the facebook xfinity feed. People use their real names and post their locations which makes it easier for these pranksters to contact angry customers. I think that these Phone Losers are doing a service to the public because eventually this pranking will become so bad for the company that they will be eventually forced to change. I bet people are leaving Comcast because of these pranksters and that will turn to a loss of profit for the corporation.

  • Paul Jumper

    Because these people are bringing it on themselves to complain about a personal problem with a company in such a public forum. Twitter is not the right place to complain about an install job with Comcast.

    Brad is actually doing the world a favor as he is just having a little fun with these people, someone more nefarious could schedule a “follow-up” appointment to come and rob them or a million other things. It’s just stupid to broadcast your personal grievances with a private company on the public Internet, and it’s going to be abused by those with wayyyyyy more harmful intentions than Brad. Hopefully Brad is teaching a lesson to everyone and having a little fun rather than what could happen.

  • Paul Jumper

    I listen to these calls. He never ever asks them for financial information, never threatens them in any way. It’s literally for a laugh. To see how someone would react to being charged a “stupid b*tch fee” or to hear someone get pissed off when you tell them that On Demand is supposed to look like garbage. Do yourself a favor, listen to the calls they are so absurd that it’s unbelievable that anybody even continues the conversation. Nobody reasonable would think it was Comcast actually talking to them.