This AT&T sales email looks like a phishing scam, but sadly it's real

This AT&T sales email looks like a phishing scam, but sadly it's real

Summary: I can't tell you whether this is just a problem in central Florida or if AT&T everywhere has these professionalism issues, but it's getting old.

TOPICS: AT&T, Security

Back when landlines were all the rage, I was a loyal AT&T customer. My landlines gave me crystal clear sound and they were essentially problem free. By contrast, I wasn't much of a fan of Verizon because I had all sorts of problems with them getting commercial broadband run into my apartment.

Today, however, I'm finding myself very happy with Verizon's cellular service and continually baffled by the lack of professionalism I see from our local AT&T service. Back in May, I wrote about the stank wafting out of my local AT&T store.

A few years earlier, I wrote about the absolutely non-existent AT&T cell service at my new house, and my need to spend hundreds of dollars and an extra kick-you-in-the-pants $20 a month for an AT&T Microcell to compensate for their lack of infrastructure.

In both of these cases, I got calls from AT&T management shortly after running the articles. In the first case, I was told AT&T would investigate and got a quote for use in the article. In the second, a message was left on my voicemail telling me that AT&T wanted to help, but repeated calls to the number left resulted in no response.

Even my one remaining AT&T landline is pretty sad. A few months ago, I was forced to move my webcasts onto Skype and off the landline (which I'd leased for the very purpose of those webcasts) because the noise on the line was unbearable. But the last AT&T technician who came to the house so damaged the existing attic wiring that I had to have a friendly electrician come back in and run a fresh set of wires from the D-Mark and undo the damage the AT&T tech had done.

With all that, I have to say I was surprised when I got an email from my local AT&T rep claiming, well, rather than tell you, I'll show you:


Now, tell me this: does that look like an official email subject line from a top corporation? The sender can't even seem to capitalize the letters of her company in the subject.

Yeah, I thought it was a phishing email, too. I was curious, though, and examined the header before opening the mail and it did, in fact, originate from an AT&T server. So I opened it.

It was from my local rep. But it looked for all the world like a terribly composed phishing letter, all the way down to the highlights and the once-again de-capitalized AT&T name in the body of the letter.

capture 2

I don't mean to pick on this one rep (which is why I'm not showing her name). But these incidents are why consumers and businesses just don't like dealing with carriers. In addition to all the fees, penalties, and hoop jumping carriers require of us telecommunications users, they just can't seem to care enough to do their job with all that much professionalism.

I know this may seem like I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, but this sort of thing is getting old. Large carriers have near monopolies with their customers and in return for using the citizen-provided public airwaves (since we the people are the true owners of the signal space), we have the right to demand quality, professionalism, and good service.

This is important because of how we teach people to watch out for phishing scams. We instruct users to look for the errors and mistakes in a message that indicate that it might not have originated with a legitimate sender. But then we get critically important, legitimate emails (or even sales emails like this) from our own vendors that look like they were written by a teenager in Belarus. If our vendors can't maintain a level of professionalism in their communication, it makes the problem all that much worse.

Oh, and I probably shouldn't have shown you any of this, because at the very bottom of the email was this little note:

capture 3

Really? You put that at the bottom of a sales pitch? Does that mean I can't show it to my co-workers or my supervisor or anyone else? Are you saying if I even open it, I'm in violation of some obscure AT&T rule?

Just... sigh. It's AT&T. Or make that at&t since each of these encounters seems to diminish the company in my eyes, bit by bit.

So is this a problem everywhere? Have you noticed these professionalism issues with AT&T in your area, or is it just central Florida?

Topics: AT&T, Security


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Desperate for sure

    I have seen T-Mobile become very desperate too. Offering to pay for anyone's early termination fee's if they switch to T-Mobile. I think we are finally seeing the smaller one's struggle and AT&T is not small but their service has always been horrible. Yea, in a few cities they can brag about speed and services. But overall they suck. I had them for a while and could never make a call from home. Even though they (AT&T) said a tower was less then a mile away. It turned out they dropped that lease on that tower in favor of their own further away. I have been a Verizon customer forever, since bag phones were common place. Other then a short stint trying AT&T which I still kept Verizon as a provider. I have never found any reason to switch. For me its about coverage, service and not about gimmicks, teaser rates and lies. Maybe if AT&T spent more money expanding and improving their network then whining about not enough customers or high churn rates. They would have more loyal customers.
    • verizon is a POS

      they put a couple of towers in the middle of nowhere when no one else had built out, sent someone there and made a photo op and an ad video, which they played ad nauseum till every dumazz got brainwashed.

      Their service sucks and their coverage is the stuff of legends- legends they created through advertisements.

      at&t coverage has pretty much caught up and exceeded verizon's and in urban areas, both at&t and tmobile run circles around verizon due to their higher cell density.

      I have neither at&t nor verizon service.
      • their coverage IS the stuff of legends

        And rightfully earned.

        AT&T still isn't close on coverage to Verizon (which is why we switched), and the plans are really no different between carriers, so it just made sense to go Verizon
  • Oh the irony!

    This author and one or two others are the exception but generally I have found the same problem with ZDNet's writers. Grammar mistakes, spelling and general lack of editing abound. When you have to interpret what the author meant to say versus what they actually said it is irksome and disrupts the flow of what they are trying to say!

    It certainly makes me question the professionalism of ZDNet and its writers. Dave, can you circulate this article to your colleagues?
    • That's because

      many of them are writing on tablets and the autocomplete makes a complete mess of the text they are trying to write. Add in cost cutting to get rid of sub-editors and you have a real mess on your hands. :-(
  • Epidemic

    Here in SoCal, we see this all to often from all of the main four. and not in just email either. They will also appear on billboards, sides on buildings used as billboards, flyers for beach distribution and other similar locals. Sometimes I suspect a portion of these are offshore designed then direct translated.
    Serious lack of professionalism.
  • I've had this problem with Verizon and Cox

    Before I switched to broadband, I tried to get my DSL Line attached to my house (FIOS was brand new and not out yet and DSL was cheap, so I was going to keep it for a while). I called them and told them I was moving, two weeks later, still no internet. I called again; a week later, still no internet. I called one last time and told them they still hadn't connected my line and to cancel my account and they told me the account was already cancelled. I moved vrom Verizon cell service because I was paying $30 more a month for service I couldn't get at my house and they wouldn't broker a deal to keep me.

    As for Cox, the lines near my house are old and prone to failure, there's no bandwidth in my neighborhood during peak hours, and I never get near the speed I'm paying for in my tier. This is all because Cox has a monopoly for service due to rules I believe are illegal; Only allowing one company to service land-line media in a city or town is a Monopoly and should be against Federal laws, yet it happens everywhere.
    • That's how Comcast got so big

      becoming the only cable provider allowed to service 90% of Philadelphia
  • Federal Laws....

    It's called a statutory monopoly or de jure monopoly and I agree it shouldn't be legal. We get all the laws we can pay for.
    • De Jure monopolies originally had a purpose.

      They were created to avoid the redundancy of having 3 or 4 water treatment companies, power companies, gas companies, and other utilities, each invest in separate infrastructures overlapping in the same service area (imagine 3 sets of water or gas pipes overlapping one another to serve next door neighbors with different competing services). Since the power of competition to keep prices low was being sacrificed, local (and/or state and federal) governments replaced it with profit margin controls, customer service regulations, etc. This can work as long as the regulators are not "bought" by lobbyists for the provider (or for a would-be competitor that wants to replace them).

      However, wireless networks are something different, more like traditional over-the-air TV and radio stations. Even though competing providers have their own repeaters, they often lease space on shared towers, and use the (monopoly) local landline network to connect them to one another and to landline switching systems. But there is no basic inefficiency in their competing, since they do not have to run separate, overlapping WIRES to each customer.
  • They don't know how to run lean and mean.

    They (AT&T and the others) used to have monopolies. So profits were locked in at rates set by each state. If they had 30% more management overhead than a non monopoly company, it didn't matter, rates set as X% above a reasonable cost. And costs grew over time but it didn't matter as long as they could show the costs were not truly excessive. Thus they were on auto pilot.

    For the last 20 years or so they have been dumped into this strange world where competition matters. Verizon and AT&T still don't know how to deal with T-Mobile and Sprint. Remember initially the cell system in the US was set up for 2 providers per area. The local phone company and one "upstart". Of course over time it became obvious the point of the "upstart" was to grow fast and sell out to a larger carrier. (Regulators never seem to think that people will figure out how to grow big profits no matter what the rules.)

    So now they are in a competitive mode. And they still don't get it. Marketing droids that don't under stand what they are selling. Spending $5million a year to name a local stadium instead of making existing customers happy. (Quick quiz: Which means more to you in picking a local telco, a good reference from a friend or their name on the side of a stadium?)

    I figure it will take another 20 years before they get it. As in many ways they have near monopolies or duopolies at this time and can still get the business after bumbling around.

    The latest Google Fiber announcement gives cheer to those of us with mediocre Time Warner now but soon become customers of awful Comcast.
  • AT&T

    AT&T is so busy trying to screw us out of anything [including pennies] that they will cut every expense to improve their profitability. And hiring morons ,who don't know crapolla about customer service or the English language, is the last straw.
  • 1001 reasons why I hate my EX?

    thats the best you can do? wonder why ATT was ranked as the best by JD Powers. I been with AT&T for the last 5 years and i love it..
  • Douglas Adams had it right

    Let's round up all the marketing graduates and put them on the "B" Ark.
  • The business model is no longer beneficial to the consumer.

    If I remember correctly from a long time ago when my town was going through cable debates: the reason there are local monopolies on cable was that the initial investment to install house to house was so high. So a company would only invest if they could guarantee a certain time frame to make their money back and earn a profit. This model has continued until today in most areas.

    But connection now is as important to people as roads were to our predecessors. So the government needs to take over the physical installation and maintenance of land lines, cell towers and install wireless relays in cities then lease bandwidth to content distributors at a fair price related to cost. Unfortunately knowing our government that might make them feel entitled to control content.

    I know that a lot of people hate the idea of the government getting involved and I agree if it was anything more than in a physical infrastructure capability. But what ever the answer is, it better come fast. Companies are already talking about the need for throttling bandwidth for certain sites, e.g. Netflix. (Although I think some of that is to make Netflix less competitive to traditional cable companies.) All I know is that considering:

    We should not have to pay more for slower speeds.
  • AT&T is acceptable to me in SFBay Area

    My UVerse gateway crashed a few weeks ago; the tech was here the next day with a new gateway, I only had to change to its new wi-fi address. There have been other signal issues occasionally, but they have been more responsive than Comcast was.

    I still have my POTS since I expect it may survive the next earthquake better than the cells, but if the Interwebs stay up then my microcell should help my cell stay useful. BTW, I went to my AT&T company store and told them about my marginal-at-best cell reception. They looked it up on their magic cell strength map and gave me a zero dollar microcell. My wife's Verizon is about the same as my AT&T signal without the MicroCell, probably on the same antenna.
    common sense
  • That grey phone company protector box on the side of the house...

    ...used to just contain a lightning arrestor that really only protected from large line transients. After the Judge Green decision breaking up AT&T and allowing competition in installed equipment, an extra line jack was installed in the protector box called a DEMARCATION point or the DEMARC (pronounced d - mark) and inside wiring now became property of the home owner. A trouble isolated into the house would be repaired for an hourly rate prorated in 15 minute increments. Or the homeowner could optionally find and fix the problem or hire an electrician to do it.
    The phone companies are now trying to back out of the traditional wireline phone business in favor of the more lucrative wireless/cellular side. I know a little about this because I retired from SBC (now AT&T since SBC bought and absorbed them) 10 years ago.

    I still have my POTS line although I receive monthly (or occasionally more often) UVerse sales calls as they try to entice me to give up my retiree concession service for a much more expensive UVerse package.

    In our area we have COMCAST (at one time locally it was AT&T cable). COMCAST SUCKS! I cut the coaxial cable from the side of my house and put up an outside antenna. They have a human contact charge that will appear as an extra charge on your monthly bill should you feel the need to have to call them for anything.
    • True about inside wiring, but

      for a small monthly "insurance premium" on the phone bill (whether traditional POTS or fiber carrying TV, internet and POTS concurrently, as in U-verse), AT&T and (I would hope) other local phone service providers will cover inside wiring for free. The last I heard, it takes effect one month after adding it to the bill.

      Full disclosure: I am a happy U-verse customer, was a mostly happy AT&T POTS/DSL customer (and mostly happy Comcast cable TV customer) in another state, and during that earlier time, worked for AT&T in DSL support. I have no current employment relationship with AT&T, and use another carrier for my cell phones.
  • well change the format

    of course, you can change the format. the way it looks and the content so that it doesn't looks spammy. btw this website offers free minutes for international calls..