Farewell, T-Mobile

All things made will some day disappoint. It's one of those universal truths, isn't it? Anything that has been built by human hands, put together in Nature eventually fails or changes irrevocably. While I don't need to invoke the fallibility of human creations, I do want to applaud their audacity. 

Audacious Service

T-Mobile offered, at one time, great mobile service. After all, it's network made it possible for people to connect over the internet, speak to each other at great distances. But what really distinguished T-Mobile for me was its customer service. I still remember that early Monday phone call....
"Hi, I'm a brand new customer at T-Mobile. We just got our phones on Friday, and here it is Monday morning. I have a big problem. I thought I had purchased unlimited everything but I don't think I did. What can we do about it?"

"Yes, sir, I can see that one of the phone numbers on your account has already sent almost 8,000 messages."

"Wait, what?" I stuttered. "What is the rate for that many messages without the unlimited service?"

"No worries, we can retroactively get you unlimited messaging and you won't be charged per text message."

Oh, the relief I felt at those words from my T-Mobile representative. Over the years, I've enjoyed great service from the T-Mobile folks. Whether it was my family members calling or I, it was safe to assume that the customer service team would handle the problem.

The Data Breach(es)

Again, I'm not surprised anymore when my confidential data finds its way onto the internet, dark web, or whatever. After all, there is no business that can keep data safe. Whether it's the Teacher Retirement System (TRS), school districts, my medical provider billing company, my data has been out there for some time. However, the expectation is that data breaches won't happen again or that different processes will be put in place to mitigate the exposure.

Millions of consumers received a notification recently from T-Mobile  (TMUS) - Get Report that "unauthorized access to some of your personal data has occurred.”

The company confirmed last week that the physical addresses, Social Security information, driver’s license information, and IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbers of 100 million people were stolen in a massive data breach.

The leaked information reportedly included sensitive personal data from both current and prospective customers who had given the company their personal information in order to run a credit check. Source: What You Can Do if You Were a Victim of the T-Mobile Data Breach

But T-Mobile's latest breach, yet another release of sensitive data, stirred a bit of resentment in me. I realized that I had to do something, do what I could. I have already done what has been suggested in this article on the subject

I wrote about what to do before, so here's a quick list with a link to more steps you can take:

  • Switch from debit cards to protected credit cards, or use Paypal as an intermediary account. Make a decision to NOT use your debit card or write print checks with your routing and account # on them. 
  • Freeze your credit reports to prevent new accounts. It prevents others from opening new accounts in my name unless they have my special PIN#. These approaches aren't foolproof but they do help. Credit Freeze sites:
  • Online Social Security account. Create the account before the bad guys do. Problem is, if you froze your credit reports, you'll have to go in person to the Social Security Admin building.
  • File tax return early. If you don't do it, they will.
  • Check your credit frequently. Annual Credit Reports provides a free service, but you may need to pay to get that more often.
  • Sign up for Identity Theft Alert: Fill out this form to notify the credit agencies of potential identity theft.

I also recommend the following:
  • Setup an encrypted email (e.g. ProtonMail) for financial accounts.
  • Setup 2-factor authentication using an Authenticator app for all email, cloud storage, digital accounts.
  • Use secure passwords. I like to use secure password generator then add my own twist to it. I end up with a secure password that I keep track of using a password manager (e.g. Keepass, BitWarden).
  • Add a password or pin# to all bank account transactions. It takes an instant, but without it, it may be difficult for folks to access your accounts. And, of course, change these.
  • Get alerts via your bank mobile app for all transactions. I love knowing when funds come out of my bank account.
  • Get more than one form of ID, such as passport, passport card, and driver's license. You never know when you will have to prove you are who you say you are.
  • Encrypt confidential data documents you have saved in cloud storage (e.g. Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox), as well as when they are "at rest" on your laptop or USB external drives. Some free tools include:

Do you really need to do all this? Well, I suppose you don't if you aren't worried about identity theft. Consider the statistics from this article:

Do what you can to protect yourself. Although it isn't much, you must do it.

The Switch

It was with a bit of sadness that I said goodbye to T-Mobile after twelve years, excellent customer service from people on the other end of the phone (albeit, not the people responsible for protecting sensitive data from hackers). But who to go with? I dislike AT&T for their hidden fees and my previous experience with them. I had heard complaints about the other carriers, too.

Since I live in the Austin-San Antonio area, I decided to give Spectrum Mobile a shot. So far, so good. I hope that I won't be posting a farewell message to Spectrum Mobile in the future. But then again, it is fallible, human made creation, destined to fail at some point.

C'est la vie.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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