PLA Issue #5: Billing Your Calls To Someone Else

How To Bill All Of Your Fone Calls To Some Poor, Innocent, Unsuspecting Son Of A Bitch
Written by RedBoxChiliPepper on January July 7, 1993. Last Revision on May 13, 1995

So there I was stranded in Miami with a broken red box in one hand and an outdated list of calling card numbers in the other hand. Just as I was about ready to jump to my death in the ocean because I couldn't call my friends, I got an idea. Third-party bill my calls to random names in the phone book!

Of course, I started out using this method on pay phones which is a pain in the ass because the operator wants to call up the number you're billing to and make sure it's okay with them first. So here's your detailed instructions for simplified third-party billing. Oh, and by the way, in no way am I claiming to be the elite guy who "discovered" third party. I mean, come on, third party billing's been around forever and some guy said I shouldn't take credit for something that's been done forever. I'm just trying to explain how easy it is. Sheesh, some people!

Finding A Number To Use

First of all, if you're going to be calling from home, it's best to charge the calls to a different area code than your own. Sure, a local number will work but when the people get their phone bill and see a local number on it, they'll most likely call it to find out what it is. When they see a long distance number they think "Goodness gracious! If I call that number my phone bill will even be higher." Even if they do call you, you can just play ignorant and if they're far away they probably won't come looking for you.

Pick a city, any city. The city should be far away in another state. Now dial local information and ask for the area code to your city. Let's say you picked Waverly, Iowa. The area code is 319. Now dial 1-319-555-1212 to call Waverly Directory Assisstance. The charge for this call should only be about sixty cents.

Now think of a very common last name like Smith, Lawrence, Conner, Mitchell, Shlappenheimerwinthrop, etc. You get the idea.

OPER: Directory Assisstance, Betty. What city, please?
 YOU: Waverly.
OPER: Go ahead.
 YOU: I need the number of a last name Conner.
OPER: (type, type, type) Okay I have two Conners
      listed. A Bob and an initial H.
 YOU: Bob, yeah that's it. Definately Bob. Bob it is.
      Gimmie Bob. Yeah, Bob.
OPER: The number is 452-0357.

So that's the number you'll bill to. 319-452-0357. Of course if you're planning to do this extensively you'll need many more numbers to pick from. That's when you call up the phone company and ask for a phone book to be delivered to you so you'll have a whole list of numbers to choose from. A normal book will cost about $7.00 or so. If you know how to do it right, it won't cost you anything but I won't get into that. The phone book will pay for itself after about 3 or 4 long distance calls.

Exchange List

If you don't want to go through all the trouble of doing the above, here's a list of exchanges you can pick from. I'm including the area code and prefix. You just make up four numbers after that at random.

              618-254-xxxx 409-744-xxxx 213-962-xxxx 505-398-xxxx
              318-981-xxxx 314-231-xxxx 513-741-xxxx 503-255-xxxx
              803-254-xxxx 319-452-xxxx 618-377-xxxx 512-441-xxxx

Making The Call

Pretty easy. Dial 0-AREA CODE-NUMBER. You'll hear a cool Bell tone and the automated voice will ask you to enter your card number. Press "0" to skip that part. Recently, they came out with automated third number billing so you don't have to deal with a live operator anymore. Isn't technology great?! The automated voice will ask you to "say" how you want to bill your call. Just say, "third number" and it'll ask you to touch tone in the number you want to charge it to. Dial 319-452-0357 and presto, your call is completed.

If you get a live operator instead say, "I'd like to charge this to my home telephone in Waverly, Iowa, the Turnip capitol of the world." and follow the same proceedure.

Some of the more intelligent people (about 2%) put a third-number block on their line. If this happens the recording will say, "This call cannot be billed to this number." Solution? Hang up, redial the number and try billing it to a different number or just transpose a couple of the numbers you just tried.

If you don't have AT&T as your long distance carrier, dial 10288-0-NUMBER.

Calling From A Pay Phone

As I mentioned before, doing it from a pay phone is a little harder but still works. The operator will want to call the person you're billing to a verify with them that it's okay to bill it there.

The trick is to open the phone book at the pay phone and pick a number at random. Look for an old person's name because they're the most gullible but anyone will do. Let's say you picked Christian Slater 213-962-7142. Dial your number as 0-AREA CODE-NUMBER and hit "0" after the tone.

OPER: AT&T, How may I help you?
 YOU: I want to charge this to my home phone.
OPER: Will someone be there to accept the charges?
 YOU: Who wants to know?
OPER: Me.
 YOU: Okay, then, tough guy.
OPER: What is your name?
 YOU: Christian Slater, you may have heard of me.
OPER: (dials 213-962-7142. A lady answers the phone.
      Probably Slater's wife.)
LADY: Hello?
OPER: Hello, this is AT&T. Christian is making a call
      from a public phone and wishes to bill the call
      to you. Will you accept the charges?
LADY: Oh, yeah, okay. I'll accept.

And the operator thanks you and puts your call through. As long as you don't get any of the following responses you should be okay:

"Huh? But I'M Christian Slater."
"Calling from a pay phone?? But he's right here with me watching Cheers!?"
"Christian died last week."
"No Hablo Engles??"

A Few Extra Notes

Sometimes if the no one is home at the number you're trying to bill to, you
can convince the operator that it's really you're number if you know what the
answering machine message is going to say and if you can do an impression of
their voice on the machine. Even a bad impression will sometimes work.

When doing this from home, try not to use the same number more than two or
three times so the owner of the number will be less likely to investigate.

I've experienced third-party billing from both sides. Someone charged forty
dollars worth of calls to my dad's phone and the operators were very
unhelpful and unfriendly. They refused to investigate even though it was
comming from a residential line and it took two months to get the charges
removed. This was back in 1990 but I've been doing this for a few years now
and people don't seem to care too much at a few calls totaling to under ten
bucks. I've actually called the people I used and asked them about it and they
almost always blow it off as a "minor nusience."

AT&T is completely automated from your home and the best to use. U.S.Sprint
is the second best because they're not automated but they also don't call and
verify. M.C.I. sucks because they're losers who verify no matter what so don't
use them. To choose your company, before you dial the number dial 10288 for
AT&T or 10333 for U.S. Sprint.

International calls will be verified no matter what from pay phone or home.

Hope this file benefits everyone who reads it. It'll sure cut your long
distance bill down a lot.

May 13, 1995 Special Important Update

Well, it seems that AT&T are finally waking up to this problem of third party
billing...On my local phone bill I was backbilled for $175 worth of third
party calls. The kicker part is that I called the phone company and complained
that there were all these extra charges on my bill that I know nothing about
and they were more than happy to take the charges off. A few weeks later, I
got a letter from AT&T concerning some more charges...

Dear Customer,

We are sending you this letter to advise you of the long distance
calls we have billed your account. The amount is $53.70, excluding
taxes. These long distance calls have been investigated by our
Message Analysis Center and were determined to be your responsibility.
A list of these calls will appear on a future bill.

If you would like to discuss this matter, please contact our office
toll-free at 1-800-522-2157, ext. 4737. Our ofice hours are Moday
through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Eastern
Standard Time.

Sincerely,

Dawn Brooks
Investigator

I've yet to hear anything more about this but I plan to just ignore the extra
charges on the bill and complain to the phone company and hopefully I won't
have to pay. If I do, oh well, it's only fifty bucks.

Another recent happening is that two people I know have been back billed.
Martini from Illinois was charged $75 on her bill. "I don't understand what
this third number means, sir, I only have two lines!" Also, an idiot in Oregon
was back billed because he had the itelligence to bill to the exact same
number every single time. Worse yet, the number was in Canada and it was a
non-working number and the last four digits were 1234. What a cool guy!

Operator Diverting

A safe way to get around being back billed is to operator divert before
you get AT&T. It's a pain in the ass and takes a little longer, but it works
if you really need to call from home and don't have any other way.

Dial "0" and ask that operator to dial 1-800-225-5288 for you. (AT&T) Tell the
AT&T operator that you want to place a 3rd party billed call. She'll ask what
number you're calling from and you give her the number of somebody that you
don't like so it'll come back on them and not you. Whatever you do, don't give
her your real phone number.

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