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Fired Arizona CenturyLink employee files lawsuit alleging fraud

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Fired Arizona CenturyLink employee files lawsuit alleging fraud,

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An Arizona woman has filed a lawsuit alleging she was fired after raising concerns about CenturyLink employees fraudulently signing customers up for accounts without authorization. Wochit

A Gilbert woman has filed a lawsuit alleging she was fired after raising concerns about CenturyLink employees fraudulently signing customers up for accounts without authorization.

The company provides internet, phone and TV services nationwide.

According to the lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, former CenturyLink employee Heidi Heiser worked from her home as a customer service and sales representative between August 2015 and October 2016.

Heiser in the lawsuit alleges she was wrongfully terminated shortly after telling CEO Glen Post on a company message board about customers being bilked. She said unauthorized charges add up to “many millions” from customers over the past two years.

An attempt to reach Heiser and her attorneys Saturday was unsuccessful.

CenturyLink said it is taking the allegations seriously and is “diligently investigating” the matter.

“CenturyLink is here to serve our customers. As such, CenturyLink holds itself and its employees to the highest ethical standards and does not condone any type of unethical behavior,” said Annmarie Sartor, external communication manager for CenturyLink. “The allegations made by our former employee are completely inconsistent with our company policies, culture and Unifying Principles, which include honesty and integrity.”

What’s in the complaint?

During her tenure with CenturyLink, Heiser worked from home and addressed customer calls over the phone with lines and equipment provided by the company. 

Heiser’s attorneys allege that four or five months into her employment, she realized through customer calls and data review that multiple customers had additional accounts that they said they neither requested nor approved. 

Heiser, the suit states, was aware the company had performance and incentive programs based on sales of lines and services.

Heiser’s attorneys allege that the system and practices used by the company allowed employees with “a personal incentive to add services or lines to customer accounts to falsely indicate on the CenturyLink system approval by a customer of new lines or services, which would inure to the direct or indirect benefit of such CenturyLink agents or their superiors.”

Additionally, Heiser claims she learned that when customers complained about unauthorized changes and subsequent charges that company policy was to state that the system indicated that the customer had approved the service and demand payment through the date of the complaint and only correct it going forward.

A cursory search of customer review sites online show similar complaints.

On Yelp, Andrew V. of Seattle posted March 28 about problems removing a penalty from his bill followed by “their billing system has made errors, in  CenturyLink’s favor, on more than half of our bills.”

Michael F. of Chandler, posted May 17 on Complaints Board that his bill was repeatedly substantially higher than the agreed on price.

Heiser in the lawsuit alleged that quality control monitoring and management review would make the company managers aware of these issues.

She stated that no one informed her that customer service agents should stop making unauthorized account changes, that they should report finding of such to anyone or that a policy or practice was in place or being developed to halt such issues.

Because of this, the suit says, Heiser assumed the company created the incentive offerings, sales practices and culture required to create the problem, ignoring customer complaints and reinforcing the structure that allowed the fraud to happen.

The suit alleges that about the same time, the national news of Wells Fargo Bank creating fake customer accounts broke, and Heiser recognized “frightening parallels.”

More recently, Wells Fargo has been accused of tampering with the mortgages of customers who filed for bankruptcy protections.

Heiser reportedly discussed her concerns with three managers in her chain of command. The suit states she was told to stay positive and not discuss the matter further. 

The call system that Heiser used for work reportedly started to malfunction and drop calls in May 2016.

She reportedly sent about 50 emails in an attempt to get the problem fixed, but she reports that it was never repaired.

In October, CenturyLink held an online question and answer session with Post that allowed employees to post questions online for his review.

Heiser asked why customers were being billed for things they did not request.

She was never answered and she thinks the question was pulled down shortly after she posted it, according to the lawsuit.

Two days later, Heiser was called and informed that her employment was being suspended because she allegedly had hung up on customers.

Heiser’s attorneys argue that until she was fired for whistleblowing, their client had never received a negative performance review or been told she needed to correct any actions.

Follow Bonnie Bolden on Twitter @Bonnie_Bolden_ and on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1RtsEEP. BrieAnna Frank of The Arizona Republic contributed to this report.

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