How a Comcast error let someone else use my DVR for nearly 2 months.

As a Comcast Xfinity X1 customer, I have had a mostly positive experience since early signing up in early Spring. However, a problem occurred recently that has left many at Comcast scratching their heads and my family growing in frustration. I am writing this in hopes it provides clues to anyone else experiencing a similar situation and to vent over my experience of something Comcast should have caught much sooner than they had.  The problem? Mysterious shows appearing on our DVR in which we don’t watch nor have set to record. You may see this as random shows recording, shows you didn’t schedule to record recording, mysterious shows recording, or any other way you want to work it. Ultimately, it meant that Comcast let someone else use my DVR for nearly 2 months. 

First some background

My family recently moved into a new home. We had Comcast service prior to our move and we were told to bring out equipment to the new house and connect it ourselves. If we required a technician to set it up, it would have costed us, according to Comcast. That’s fine, though. I am very savvy and comfortable connecting the existing equipment. 

A month of uninterrupted service at our new home and we thought there was nothing to worry about. That is until one Saturday we had difficulty watching TV. The picture went in and out frequently. I called support and a technician had come to fix the problem. The problem was due to interference on the lines that required a splitter to be changed, some cable connections to be replaced, and a moca filter to be added. The technician had informed me that we had no moca filter installed and that what was supposed to happen is that Comcast sends a technician to the property to make sure the home is properly connected and has a moca filter when a customer moves. This hadn’t been done. 

The problem

Shortly after this technician’s visit, we started to see shows we hadn’t recorded or watch appear on the DVR as recordings. At first, we didn’t think anything of it. Perhaps our toddler accidentally recorded them. We started to see these and more record every week, so I checked our scheduled recordings to find that they weren’t listed as scheduled. I began thinking the problem was related to the technician that had come to install a moca filter and do other work. 

Troubleshooting

I tried everything to resolve this problem. I tried setting the series recording then canceling it, hoping it would override whatever was letting them record in the first place but it didn’t work. I changed the password to the online account and ensured 2-factor authentication was enabled and that didn’t resolve the problem. Tier 1 support at Comcast sent multiple technicians and refresh signals to the boxes without resolution. The technicians replaced our moca filter each time, one even replaced our DVR. Nothing worked. 

Observations of the problem

As this went on for nearly two months, I began to notice interesting behaviors. Not only were shows being recorded which we hadn’t set to record, but they were also being watched and possibly deleted. I would often browse our recordings and notice these mysterious shows would have a progress bar appear next to them indicating they had been watched or are in the process of being watched. It meant someone was watching these recordings and we could see it. What was unclear is if this person could see our recordings and interact with them as well. Thankfully, none of our recordings that we wanted were affected. At least, not the recordings that had been recorded.

Because our DVR was recording our shows and a stranger’s shows, and because Comcast limits you to how many shows you can record at a time, some of our shows did get skipped. The most annoying part about this is that if these shows are available On Demand, there’s no option to fast forward on most of them and occasionally, X1 doesn’t remember where we left off. 

The possible solution

At the time of writing this, we’re unsure if the problem has actually been resolved or not. Time will tell. However, over the countless calls to support, discussions with multiple technicians that have been to the house, and even some forum discussions about the issue, I’m hopeful that Comcast finally fixed the problem, but why did it take almost 2 months to fix?

What might be the solution is the last Tier 3 technician I spoke with identifying that our account wasn’t properly moved when we moved homes. He fixed this error and I’m hopeful this resolves the problem. The details of how it wasn’t properly moved are still unclear to me, however. 

From what I learned dealing with Comcast is that the account number is associated with an address, not an individual. That means when someone moves homes, the account number changes. I did not learn whether that means the account number remains the same for that address (as in if whoever lives in our old home has the same account number as we did when we lived there). Since our account hadn’t been moved properly/completely, it means that to some extent, our account is still tied to our old home. This raises concerns that whoever lives in our old home had access to our DVR and it was unclear to what extent. Could the new residents observe what we watch? When we watch it? Could this be used to determine if we were home based on DVR activity?

Why did it take 2 months to fix?

The bigger questions, however, is why wasn’t this discovered sooner? Why did it take almost 2 months to discover? I told customer support about our recent move each time. No one looked at the account to verify it had been moved or if they had, they didn’t look in great detail. Tier 1 only wanted to send a technician or refresh the boxes. It was weeks of those tasks not working before the problem was escalated. Tier 2 mostly did the same troubleshooting as Tier 1, but at least they were more responsive and sounded more knowledgeable. Tier 3 was more capable of looking beyond the basics but their solutions resulted in sending another technician, suggesting to replace the DVR which had already been done, and escalate the problem to Engineering. It took me calling Tier 3 directly multiple times to finally find a technician with many years of experience, whom was also mystified of the problem, to identify the problem with the account move. He fixed the problem but mentioned that he was unsure if that would resolve our DVR problem. In several days, I will know if it has or not. If this doesn’t resolve our problem, then it means no one at Comcast knows how to fix this problem and I will wish I had another choice in Internet and Cable services that doesn’t require a satellite dish connected to the house. 

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