Case History of a Phone Rip-Off (Part 1)

Case History of a Phone Rip-Off (Part 1)

Post by Carl Oppeda » Thu, 03 Feb 1994 00:29:35




Quote:Kindred ) writes:
> for a minute, she realized that she was the only person in the office,
> and that the lines couldn't be in use.  At this point she picks up the
> line, and "This is the Credit Union, may I help you?".  One of the
> people on the line mumbles something like "isn't so-and-so there?" and
> hangs up.  My mother then hung-up and was able to use the line to make
> her call.  The next day, she reported this event to NJ Bell.  A day or
> two after that, one of the phone lines went dead, and again NJ Bell
> was involved.
> As you might expect, the next phone bill was quadruple the normal.
> Most of the "mystery" calls were to Manilla (sp?), and a few to
> Panama.
> This is where things stand for the moment.  I'll report further on
> whether NJ Bell/AT&T give her a hassle about the bogus charges, and
> how long it takes to clear the "unexpected" connections.

[deletia]

Quote:> There have been numerous reports here about unscrupulous persons
> making their own connections to other people's phone lines.  The
> person (or persons) involved here seem to have known that the lines
> they "borrowed" were from a business, and what the normal working
> hours for the business were.  Only a few late nights led to the
> discovery of the problem before the first bill showed up.  Is there a
> way a small business can protect themselves from this, or do we all
> have to rely on the phone company straightening things out afterwards?

This is a problem, and is going to be more and more prevalent as the
years go on.  Indeed how can a telephone customer protect himself/herself?
Here in no particular order are a few thoughts.

1.  If you get ISDN you will virtually eliminate this problem.  The
ne'er-do-wells who tap onto phone lines these days use very
inexpensive conventional telephone equipment in their efforts, and
cannot accomplish anything with an ISDN line (other than generating
synch errors).  It will be many years (perhaps a decade) before
equipment to permit seamlessly connecting to an ISDN line becomes
commonly available.

2.  Before moving into a premises, do a security survey of the
incoming utilities.  Ideally the cable from telco passes underground,
directly into your building.  Ideally within your building the cable
then goes straight to a room that nobody gets into without a key
(ideally your key).  Etc. Etc.

3.  One bad situation is if your building is multi-tenant, and if the
telephone wiring is in places that lots of people can get at (some
public hallway in the ba*t, say).

4.  Another bad situation is if there is a connection box outdoors,
where anybody can get at it, with your non-ISDN dial tone ripe for the
plucking.  It is probably "locked" with a hex bolt that can only be
"unlocked" by people who have such rare tools as socket wrenches.

The key is to think about this *before* you move in.  It is generally
impossible to get the telephone company interested in the situation
once you are there.  "Yes, New Jersey Bell, that is *exactly* what I
want you to do!  Now get out here with that backhoe and put that line
underground right now!"

It is also generally impossible to get a landlord to do anything about
this *after* you move in.

Carl Oppedahl AA2KW   Oppedahl & Larson (patent lawyers)
Yorktown Heights, NY  voice 212-777-1330