> Choreboy wrote:
>> I've been doing chores for a vacationing relative. Tuesday, I
>> answered his phone at 9 AM and got a series of beeps, perhaps half a
>> second long and three seconds apart. I waited and hung up. It
>> happened again two minutes later.
>> Two minutes later it rang a third time. I didn't get to it in time.
>> When I walked past the answering machine, the display said it was
>> being remotely accessed.
>> If my relative had called to check his answering machine, I didn't
>> understand why he had kept beeping me instead of replying when I said
>> hello. None of the messages had been erased. I'd never known him to
>> leave messages on the machine after checking.
>> Was it somebody fooling around? I asked another relative to phone and
>> try the machine manufacturer's default remote-access code, which was
>> incorrect. With the wrong code, the display said only for a second
>> that it was being remotely accessed. It had stayed on longer the
>> first time, as if the first caller really had checked the messages.
>> At 9 AM Wednesday morning it happened again. I listened a minute or
>> so, until the other end hung up. I realized the beeps were a pure
>> tone and not the sounds of a touchtone phone, so it wasn't my relative
>> trying to access his messages. When they called two minutes alter,
>> the answering machine got it. There was no third call.
>> Call Return gave me a number. It's not listed, but travel sites on
>> the web say it's the fax line of a fancy hotel hundreds of miles from
>> here. My relatives have never had occasion to stay in that city.
>> I don't know anything about fax protocol. When somebody answers, will
>> a fax machine emit a beep every three seconds or so for a minute or
>> so? Will it keep calling if a human answers but stop calling if an
>> answering machine answers? Can an answering machine mistake a fax
>> machine for a human with the access code?
>> Another possibility is that the Caller ID was faked and somebody is
>> using a machine to spy on my relative's telephone messages. Is there
>> such a device?
>> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: It could be a spy machine, but I think
>> it more likely that you/relatives are being terrorized by an incorrectly
>> programmed fax machine at the First National Bank of Chicago. That
>> very fax machine, or one of its ancestors has a long history (25 years
>> or more) of auto-dialing the wrong numbers, and continuing to do so
>> until Illinois Bell has to threaten FNB with disconnection of the
>> phone line to get it to stop. 25 years ago, circa 1979-80 First
>> National Bank of Chicago's fax machine was programmed to call around
>> to various branches of the bank during early evening hours to 'poll'
>> for documents or deliver documents issued by the bank. Trouble was,
>> the humanoids in charge of the machine misprogrammed the dialing
>> string. They got an extra '01' in the string somewhere, so the machine
>> was calling _Germany_ during what would be the overnight hours in that
>> country. Religiously, several times per night, five nights per week,
>> that fax machine was calling a private family in Germany, and
>> terrorizing them. Just silence, then 'beep beep, etc', more silence
>> then more 'beep, beep'. After a week or two of this, the family, by
>> now frightened out of their wits, or really, more annoyed, ask for
>> intervention from Bundespost, and in due course Bundespost traced it
>> back to the idiotic Americans, and in turn asked AT&T to review the
>> problem. AT&T found it was coming from Illinois Bell territory, the
>> Wabash central office to be exact, and told those people to get the
>> problem cured. Like complaints made to the Illinois Commerce
>> Commission where the complaint is raised and the prissy old lady
>> secretary at the Commission makes a _single_ phone call of inquiry,
>> then folds her hands and announces self-righteously "I have called the
>> company and they _assure_ me it will be corrected" (and then it never
>> is), IB Telco tracked it down to the fax machine at the First National
>> Bank, made a phone call, said in essence to can the shit and get that
>> fax machine under control. But it was not cured, and the problems went
>> on for another month or so all night long. The German family inquired
>> further, Bundepost inquired again, and AT&T, more than a little
>> annoyed -- I guess Bundespost had really breathed on them a little
>> this time -- passed along their grief once again to Illinois Bell.
>> This time, a manager in Illinois Bell's security unit made a 'courtesy
>> call' on the bank's Vice President-Telecom and told him unless _he_
>> would cure it, telco was going to cut off the fax machine line. The
>> VP-Telecom for the bank went downstairs with the proverbial hatchet in
>> hand, ready to do business on the spot, laid into his people and got
>> the fax machine reprogrammed on the spot. But, as Paul Harvey would
>> phrase it, 'the rest of the story is to follow'. Bank's telephone bill
>> arrived the next month, with page after page after page after page of
>> _LOTS_ of one-minute calls to the same number in Germany, one after
>> another, every couple minutes all night long. Since most employees of
>> First National Bank have the memory retention of a parrot or a tortoise,
>> bank employees in charge of reconciling the phone bill assumed, this
>> must be some screw up by the phone company, and by God, we are not
>> going to pay for a phone company mistake. Telco explained to FNB
>> (I assume with a straight face) what had happened. I do not know if
>> telco eventually wrote it off (as they used to do _everything_ that
>> a customer would not pay for) or not.
>> I wonder if the people using the hotel public fax machine wherever in
>> your account also blamed the added charges on their bill on a screw
>> up by the hotel switchboard. Probably. Did you or will you tell your
>> relatives about this incident when they get back from their vacation?
> Thank you Pat! You've given me insight.
> It didn't occur to me that a guest might send faxes over the same phone
> line by which the management receives faxes. The number is advertised
> as the fax line for Brookstown Inn in Winston-Salem. The building was
> erected in 1836 as a textile mill. The inn is a sort of museum.
> My relatives say they did stay there once. They think the hotel must
> have been trying to fax them travel ads but don't understand why they
> dialed the voice number.
> That didn't sound right. Annoying people with faxes would discourage
> repeat business. Besides, under the law, an established business
> relationship does not justify faxing an ad without specific permission.
> And if the hotel were faxing a list of former guests, the list the
> second day would exclude those who had received their faxes the first
> day. So one would not expect the phone to ring at exactly 9 AM both days.
> Suppose faxes submitted by hotel guests are cued until normal office
> hours. If the fax intended for my relatives was the first in line, that
> could be why the phone rang at 9 AM both days.
> I couldn't find anyone who knew how it sounds to be called by a fax
> machine. So I installed fax software on my computer, faxed my
> relatives' voice line, and listened on an extension. I recognized the
> beeps. Apparently their answering machine took the beeping for a person
> having trouble punching a touchtone code. The machine's voice
> instructed the caller to punch the access code, and the answering
> machine waited. That explains why for several seconds the machine's
> display said it was being remotely accessed.
> I can even explain why the voice line was dialed. Daplus.us is an
> online phone book that seems to be updated several times a year. For
> years, it has listed my relatives' fax number as their voice number.
> I suppose someone with a subscription to daplus could request fax
> numbers, and daplus would probably give my relatives' voice number as
> their fax number.
> I think a hotel guest who wanted to fax my relatives got the wrong
> number from daplus. The first day, the guest got a report that the fax
> hadn't gone through, so the guest submitted it again.
> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Then they probably did it a few more
> times 'just to make sure of the number', etc. You did not say if the
> problem was still going on or not. PAT]
My relatives were home Thursday morning and Friday morning and
reported nothing. The guest may have left the hotel Wednesday.