Giant Conspiracy or Just Rotten Luck?

I've posted before about the minuscule LD bills I get on my Qwest LD account; usually less than a dollar a month, sometimes less than 50 cents. Total.

I deal with this "problem" by sending them $15 every year or so, and letting the credit balance bleed down. Then when I get a bill where I actually owe them something, I send another $15.

My usage is low because I make my LD calls on my cellphone, where LD is included in the plan minutes. Qwest is also providing me with inbound 800 service, which I used quite a bit when I ran my own business. I may run another business someday and I like that 800 number so I'm keeping it.

Anyway, a few months back my phone bill jumped to over 50 DOLLARS. This was due to a large number of calls placed to Mexico -- except (as you can probably guess) I didn't make any calls to Mexico.

So I called Qwest, and they insisted their billing info was accurate. I called SBC (my local telco) and they assured me the calls were in fact placed from my number. Well, there are only three people who have physical access to the phones here, and none of us called Mexico. We do have quite a few PCs, but only one of them has a modem and that modem is connected to a different phone line than the one with the Mexico calls, so that rules out malware dialers too.

We do have a NID. It's mounted outside the house and is not locked, but it is in a very visible location so anybody clipping in there would be noticed for sure. Especially as they'd be standing right outside our dining room window, and some of the disputed calls were placed at dinnertime.

I called Qwest back, they "investigated", and determined that I was responsible for the calls. However, they issued a "courtesy credit" and so I was stuck with the taxes but not the calls themselves.

Care to guess what happened next month? That's right, folks, another $50 of calls to Mexico! The calls are all to a handful of numbers in the same area and at various times of day -- it really looks like a normal calling pattern for someone with family in Mexico. It's just not a normal calling pattern for ME :-/

Of course I called Qwest and SBC again, they both insist the calls are mine. Qwest did another "investigation" and again determined that I was responsible but declined to issue another credit. The Qwest rep did suggest that I put a PIN on my LD; she said it was a free service that required callers to dial a 4-digit "account code" and if they didn't enter a valid code the call would not connect. So I set up PINs for the three of us. The Qwest rep called back half an hour later and apologized, but there was a $30 setup fee -- after _that_ the PINs were free. OK, I said, go ahead anyway.

Good news and Bad news: The Mexico calls stopped. But I now have a $15.00 "minimum revenue" charge on my bill every month. The X-Files fan in me says Qwest invented the Mexico calls just to get me to "touch" my account so their computer could throw in the minimum billing charge.

So, what do I do now? Obviously I'm going to call Qwest back and raise whatfor, but then what? If I can't get my LD account "fixed" then I'll have to port the 800 number elsewhere; any suggestions for cheaply "parking" an 800 number? Also, any suggestions as to how somebody could be cramming these LD calls onto my account? I've tried talking tech with the SBC operators and all they will say is that the line "tests OK" -- but they can't/won't tell me what their "test" encompasses. They insist that the calls must be coming from inside the house, since THEIR wiring is all so well protected nobody could possibly be bridging in between my house and the CO. And of course SBC's billing records are unassailable.

What I'd like to do (obviously) is get back to paying 50 cents a month for practically zero LD usage. What tack should I take with Qwest to return to those halcyon days, and if there is no such chance at Qwest, who should I replace them with?

Gordon S. Hlavenka

formatting link
If your teacher tells you to Question Authority Should you do it?

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I am reminded of a sitution back in the middle 1970's, when Illinois Bell first converted the WABash central office in downtown Chicago to ESS. I had my little office downtown in the Fisher Building, 343 South Dearborn Street. I was there for _maybe_ two hours per day, most days, usually in the middle of the day. I had _one_ phone for my personal use (not associated with the banks of phones on the recorded message service. That single-line business phone (WEbster-9-4600) was very conservative, with an eighty unit allotment for local area calls, which I never went through, or rarely. It was, I think, in those days, ten dollars per month. One month I got a bill for about thirty extra units; I grumbled to myself and said I would have to watch it more closely. The next month the bill came and it was eighty or a hundred units 'overage', and I thought that is really a bit much, so I called our service representative at Bell, Miss Prissy and asked her how could this be? Miss Prissy assured me I must have made all those calls and just forgotten about them. And she assured me, 'we now have a way to demonstrate what local calls you made, and I will send you the print out.' (This was a month or two following the cutover to ESS [WABash was first in Chicago, about 1973 or so.]) Sure enough, a couple days later a big print out arrived in the mail for me to examine.

I took this large print out and examined it. I made the arbitrary decision that as I read through the list of numbers, all those numbers I recognized I would accept as valid calls. Any numbers I did _not_ recognize I would accept as valid if they had occurred during the time of day I was usually around that office. Any calls which occurred at times I was quite unlikely to have been in the office (such as

7 AM any day) I would investigate further. In those days, there was a reverse number lookup service at no charge called 'two oh eight oh'. (You dialed any exchange anywhere in the Chicago area, then added the suffix '2080' as in 312-922-2080. '2080 service' got you a clerk at a desk in Illinois Bell's central office who would look up the desired number from an index card file on her desk; she would tell you who the subscriber was to that number.) So I took the several calls which had been made around 7 AM and backtracked them in this way; specified exchange plus 2080, passed the number on request and copied down the results. The results were simply amazing: one number which showed up a lot was an 'extended area unit charge' (meaning 5 or 6 units to start with) to a place called 'IBT Truck Repair Depot' in Aurora, IL. A few others went to something called 'Illinois Bell Locker Room, 343 South Dearborn Street' (in other words, a room there in the Fisher Building given over to Illinois Bell as a 'semi-permanent' storage and locker room area for IBT employees by building management. [Because this older high rise building had so much phone activity all the time, telco needed a 'permanent' place in the building to store tools, extra phones, wires, etc]. I might mention that the basement of the Fisher Building had _many_ telco wire distribution frames taking wires all over the building [22-story older building, many business places located therein, including answering service, etc.])

So it seemed rather plain to me: Some one or more telco employees were using any phone in the building they wanted to make their own internal calls for company business, i.e. the truck repair depot, the external locker room/storage areas, etc. All they had to do was clip on at the distribution frames in the basement and make their calls. And as I told Miss Prissy, when I called back to ream her out good, obviously since my number was on the end of the frame and ended in double zero, i.e. '4600' therefore the dunces just knew it had to be some large company which would never miss the units ripped off each month. I called back Miss Prissy and asked her point blank "ever heard of telephone company employees getting sued for theft of service?" She was shocked that I phrased it like that, of course, and when I presented her with my findings and how I had developed my case, she said she would have to talk to her supervisor and get back to me. About a half hour later she called back and told me, "my supervisor has decided to write off _all_ the extra units on your bill for last month and this month." I told her I expected someone to tell the outside plant workers (and inside as well, for that matter) to _stay off_ my line when they had to make calls. Miss Prissy agreed that her supervisor had already taken this up with plant workers and there would be no further instances of it.

So what you may want to do, Gordon, is not only think of the imaginary person outside your window getting into your pairs, but also look at every single multiple on your line between yourself and the central office, and who could have clamped on anywhere along the line. Larger older metro areas like Chicago are infamous in this way: If subscribers only knew the _truth_ about how their lines can be tapped into at various boxes. There is no such thing as a 'private' line. Only a line which has some 'security through obscurity'. Telco hopes that other folks do not know about 'borrowing pairs' from other people in the neighborhood; telco just assumes their century-old system of multiples on cable runs is still safe, and they'll try to get you to believe that also if they can.

I recommend that _everyone_ who has had trouble with mystery phone calls (especially 900 type calls) for which telco keeps insisting 'you must have made the call' print this message out for future reference. Will telco certify that your wire pair back to them is not multipled anywhere? If telco cannot or will not certify that, then those calls are not yours. Maybe telco employees perhaps, or possibly total strangers, but telco has no business insisting that calls are yours when there is anywhere the line is multipled. PAT]

Reply to
Gordon S. Hlavenka
Loading thread data ... Forums website is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.