British Columbia

Wi-Fi piggybackers rack up $800 on senior's Rogers bill

A senior citizen in Chilliwack, B.C. is angry about an $800 wireless internet access bill from Rogers — a bill she claims she's not responsible for.

Chilliwack, B.C., woman didn't know she needed to secure her wireless network with password

B.C. woman did not know she needed password for her home network 2:20

A senior citizen in Chilliwack, B.C., is angry about an $800 wireless internet access bill from Rogers — a bill she claims she's not responsible for.

Darlene Davies, 65, usually pays $60 a month for her Rogers internet service, which she accesses with an unsecured Rocket hub Wi-Fi hotspot access point.

When she received a bill for more than $600 instead, she was stunned. Rogers customer service told her the charges stemmed from data used to download movies, stream TV shows and play online games.

But Davies says she doesn't even know how to do any of those things. 

"First of all, I don't even know how to download a movie," she said. "I haven't got a clue. Online gaming is something I've never even been interested in. So I kept trying to figure out and talk to people why I had this bill."

Without any answers, another month went by, and the bill continued to rise.

"I just turned 65 years old. If you ask me to pay $810, then how do I pay my rent and put groceries on my table?"

Davies says she didn't know she was supposed to add password protection to her personal network. (CBC)

She appealed the charges with Rogers, but didn't get very far.

"They said they would put it under investigation, and so they did, and when the investigation was complete they sent me what is a stock letter stating that it happened in my home, and that I was responsible for it," she said.

Rogers' Rocket hub uses a data plan similar to a cell phone's data plan to provide internet access. Davies has used the service for the past five years.

She says she only uses the internet to check email and didn't know she needed to secure her wireless network with a password.

Unauthorized access

Andy Baryer, technology expert and co-host of GetConnected TV, says such cases of unauthorized Wi-Fi use — known as "piggybacking" — are not uncommon.

"It sounds like it was an unsecured network, and had it been password-protected, they would have had to have known her password to start using her data," he explained.

Baryer says that a company like Rogers offering these services needs to ensure that its customers know what they are getting into, and how to set up the equipment properly.

"If you're selling something like this to a senior who's not tech-savvy, you need to, as customer service, set it up for her to make sure they're protected from other people who are trying to piggyback off her data," he said.

Technology expert Andy Baryer says many data plan customers don't know how to protect themselves against unauthorized use. (CBC)

Rogers eventually told Davies they would reduce the extra charges on her account to $345, but she says that's not enough.

"If I was responsible for it, I would pay for it, but I'm not responsible, and I don't think that I should be paying for it," she said. 

"I'm paying for someone else's, as I put it, 'joyride,'" she said.

Rogers told CBC News on Tuesday that someone will be reaching out to Davies after they look into her account history once more.

Davies says she plans to change providers next week.

What do you think: Should data plan providers do a better job of educating their customers about network security?

Tell us in the comments below.

With files from the CBC's Bal Brach


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.