AT&T will disconnect 800-number abusers

August 11, 1994|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Sun Staff Writer

AT&T Corp. is pulling the plug on abusers of 800 numbers.

The giant long-distance company said yesterday that it will immediately disconnect any of its 800-number customers that use a popular ploy to convert the toll-free service into a toll charge.

The tactic, used by many sex-talk lines, involves the issuance of a personal identification number (PIN) to callers, who can then redial the 800 number and use the PIN to be connected to the service for a hefty per-minute charge.

By doing so, the operators of these services were able to sidestep programs that block calls to 900 numbers, which typically carry a charge to the caller.

The ruse generated hundreds of complaints to the Federal Communications Commission and telephone companies from parents, employers and other customers who found charges for unauthorized service on their bills.

Monty Hoyt, a spokesman for AT&T, said the company acted after the FCC gave it the green light last month to disconnect 800-number abusers without notice. Previously, the company had to give 800-number customers 10 days' notice before cutting off service.

"Ten days was a lot of time to move elsewhere," said Mr. Hoyt. A spokesman for AT&T's chief competitor, MCI Communications Corp., said the carrier began cracking down on 800-number abuse in May, but he said the company would still give customers seven days' notice before disconnecting them for use of the PIN number ploy.

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