Mystery single-ring calls originated in Ill. prison

August 04, 1993|By Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- Jeff Baird's phone had been acting funny for days, ringing just once and then stopping.

But one day last month, Mr. Baird was able to pick up the handset in the middle of a ring. And he heard a recorded message saying the call was collect from an inmate named Bill in xTC the Illinois Department of Corrections and that the call was being recorded and monitored. The recorded voice told him he could say "yes" and accept the charges or hang up.

"I have a brother-in-law named Bill, but he's not in prison," said Mr. Baird. "I almost wanted to take the call and get the guy on the phone and hear his rap."

Specifically Mr. Baird was interested in how Bill, whom he did not know, got his phone number. But he hung up instead.

And the odd ringings continued.

The answer to this Twilight Zone mystery was revealed when Mr. Baird and his wife, Jane, discovered that an inmate in the Department of Corrections ordered call-forwarding for their telephone, along with a remote access code, a new feature offered by Illinois Bell.

Remote access allows a caller with the code to dial the number of the phone that is to forward calls, punch in the three-digit code and dial the number the calls are to be forwarded to, a Bell spokesman said.

The inmate apparently ordered the service for the Bairds' telephone and was given the three-digit code over the phone by Bell employees.

The inmate dialed the Bairds' number, quickly dialed the three-digit code and the number he wanted. The person to whom the call was forwarded would hear the recorded message and accept the collect call, which was billed to the Bairds.

And the inmate apparently gave the identification code to other inmates who began making calls of their own -- more than $200 worth in a week.

Corrections officials have not identified the guilty inmate, Illinois Bell officials said.

Until Jeff Baird intercepted the mystery call, he and his wife thought a problem in the telephone lines was causing the annoying single rings.

They were able to catch more of the calls before the inmate could punch the code in. One came from an inmate who identified himself as "Doug, man, Doug," whom they also hung up on, Mr. Baird said.

After discovering the Bairds had call-forwarding services they had not ordered, Illinois Bell disconnected the service and now mails customers their three-digit code, said Bennie Currie, a spokesman for Illinois Bell.

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