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Telephone Fraud

December 07, 1986

I was interested to read your Nov. 17 article by S. J. Diamond, "Phone Firms Reach Out to Touch Frauds." I, too, have been touched by this problem.

Early this year, I received a call from a Pacific Bell representative informing me that more than 240 calls had been attempted the previous day, a Sunday, on my Pac Bell calling card.

This card is simply a number combination made up of my area code, number, plus four additional digits.

The Pac Bell representative was alerting me so that I wouldn't be shocked when the bill arrived.

I told her that I knew nothing of any such calls, as I had been out of the city the previous day.

When my bill arrived, it ran to 10 pages and totaled $8,143.33! All the calls were to cities and towns in Mexico, and were made at approximately one-minute intervals.

I had asked the Pac Bell lady if she could tell me where any of the calls had originated; she checked one or two and said they were from pay phones in filling stations in Los Angeles.

The biggest call on this bill was 271 minutes, to Mexico City, and cost $631.13.

Many others were a hundred-plus minutes and cost from $118 to $256 each.

The following month's bill brought an additional $615.59 in charges, these to Romania, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Australia.

I moved and discontinued the telephone number immediately. Thank goodness the phone company turned this matter over to its investigation section, as I have not heard any more about it since.

I do have a theory, though. My guess is that, on a Sunday, certain people will dial random combinations of numbers and when they get one that works, in this case, mine, they have some kind of network that passes the word around the city.

All their friends run to pay phones and call home, wherever that might be. In some cases, the towns where the calls are received probably only have one telephone, so people there pass the word too.

So, in a way, the phone company is performing some weird kind of public service, inadvertently. Given things in this town, someone will probably make a movie out of it.

FLO SELFMAN

Los Angeles

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