Telus releases Hamilton woman's cellphone information to her stalker
Company admits security breach and says it resulted from 'human error'
A Hamilton woman says Telus put her and her family in grave danger by allowing a stalker to access her cellphone account without her consent.
Ellie, whose name has been changed to protect her identity for safety reasons, said her ex-boyfriend was able to get her personal information and make changes to her cellphone account by having another woman call Telus and pose as her.
"Our policies and procedures are designed specifically to protect our customers from this type of social engineering, but they were not properly followed by our customer service agent in this case," Telus spokesman Richard Gilhooley told CBC News, acknowledging that Ellie's account was breached.
The security breach was part of a terrifying weekend harassing messages, Ellie says, including her being assaulted and later, chased in a car. Police have laid charges against her ex-boyfriend in connection with these allegations.
Telus assisted him in violating me. They were negligent.- Woman who was stalked by ex
"I just feel so violated, my security has been breached in a serious way," Ellie said. "I just feel so victimized by them."
The woman who posed as her to Telus provided the agent with easily obtainable pieces of personal information such as Ellie's address and email account. She told the agent she had lost her purse but needed to gain access to her cellphone.
Telus says the situation is a case of "human error," where a "skilled impostor" tricked a customer service agent into giving information that should not have been disclosed. The company says the agent that released her information was "trying to be helpful" in what was presented as a "difficult situation."
'Shouldn't that be a massive red flag?'
But Ellie maintains that the agent was negligent because the person pretending to be her could not provide the cellphone number or PIN for her account.
"Shouldn't that be a massive red flag?" she says.
Ellie told CBC News that she had been dealing with harassment from her ex-boyfriend for quite some time, and had gotten a restraining order to try to keep him away.
To further protect herself, she changed her cellphone number on Jan. 13.
Telus could not provide the exact protocols that customer service representatives are supposed to follow in these types of situations.
"We can't provide the number [of questions] or exact nature of responses we require to grant access to an account, but customers will be asked to answer a series of security questions," spokesman Gilhooley says.
"In the event that satisfactory answers can't be provided, customers are asked to go into a Telus store and show government-issued photo identification to prove that they are who they say they are.
"Regrettably, these procedures were not followed in this case."
Fears mount and assault alleged
Once she had access to her cellphone account, the person posing as Ellie added her ex-boyfriend to the account as an authorized user.
That's when harassing calls and messages she had dealt with on her old number resumed. "I couldn't figure out how he got the number," Ellie says, noting she had only given it to her mother and a handful of close friends.
She alleges that over the weekend her ex-boyfriend smashed a window on her car and physically assaulted her while her children were home. She contacted police, but officers couldn't immediately find the man.
On Jan. 16, Ellie visited a police station to give a statement, and while there, her phone lost service. Not long after, she received a call from a Telus representative, apologizing for a dropped call. That struck her as odd, because she hadn't been on the phone with anyone from Telus.
That is when she started to realize someone had gained access to her account.
That same day, Ellie says, she was driving with her kids in the car on Queenston Road when a white Saturn pulled out in front of her and stopped, blocking her way.
She realized it was her ex in the driver's seat and quickly called 911 on her cellphone as she started to drive toward the police station. The white car followed.
The driver saw a police car, got spooked, ran through a red light, and crashed his car, she says. He ran from the scene, but was picked up by police officers.
Ex-boyfriend arrested and charged
Hamilton police confirmed that Ellie's ex was arrested on that date. He was charged with assault with a weapon, assault level one, and three counts of failing to comply with a probation order. He has not been named in this story to make sure Ellie's identity is protected.
The Hamilton woman says that Telus agents were largely dismissive of her plight until she threatened legal action.
She continues to worry about the company's security measures.
"It causes such concern for me, and for other women," she says. "Telus assisted him in violating me. They were negligent."
Gilhooley says Telus is going to make sure that Ellie is "taken care of" in terms of compensation, but that it is "too early in [the] investigation to know exactly what that looks like."
- This story has been amended to clarify details about when the security breach with Telus took place.Jan 25, 2017 2:39 PM ET