It’s been four blissfully quiet days since Erica Phillips last heard from the collection agencies ringing her two or three times daily for months, demanding payment of hundreds of dollars owed on a Bell Mobility account with her name on it that she never opened.
“It’s a huge sense of relief,” she said. “It’s so nice knowing that this won’t continue being a daily reminder of something that shouldn’t have been my problem to begin with.”
The Vancouver woman says she has been fighting the company for more than two years with little response, submitting documents supporting that the account was fraudulently opened using her name while at the same time filing reports with police, credit agencies and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
She says relief from the collection calls only came after she contacted news outlets and posted about her frustrations on social media.
“I took all of the correct avenues,” she said. “I didn’t want to make myself public but I felt like I was forced to,” she said.
Phillips’ ordeal started in 2020 when she received notices mailed to an old address from both Rogers and Bell Mobility that said she owed money. She says she had never been a client of either company, so she thought they were a phishing scam. Further investigation found that identity fraudsters had used her personal information to open the accounts in her name.
She says Rogers took quick action to cancel the account when she contacted them, but Bell Mobility did not.
“That’s what seemed so insane to me at the beginning, that it was so easily taken care of with one of the companies and then not at all with the other,” said Phillips.
In an emailed statement, Bell Mobility told CBC:
“We have conducted an investigation and have determined that this account was fraudulent. We are attempting to contact the client and have advised our affiliated credit agencies of the billing error.”
The Consumer Protection B.C. website has information on how to prevent identity theft. It also has forms and advice for individuals who are being pursued by a company or collection agency for a debt that is not theirs.
Identity fraud and identity theft are criminal offences, but have become lucrative thanks to the growth of technology, according to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
In 2021, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre issued an alert after a spike in identity fraud reporting.
“Fraudsters are using personal information about Canadians to apply for government benefits, credit cards, bank accounts, cellphone accounts or even take over social media and email accounts,” it said.
Phillips says in just one night her social media post received more than 100,000 views. She’s been surprised by the number of people who have reached out to her to say they too have been victims of identity fraud.
“It’s unbelievable the comments that I’m getting on all of the various stories now of people in similar situations,” she said. “It’s crazy.”
She says Bell Mobility has not apologized.