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Phone jack access fraud reported to officials at C&P; Telephone Co.


David Taylor doesn't know anyone in Roanoke, Va., Baton Rouge, La., or New Brunswick, N.J. But you wouldn't know it from looking at his telephone bills.

Between July 1991 and March of this year, Mr. Taylor received phone bills totaling $2,527, the bulk of which was for long distance calls he says he never made.

He's convinced that someone made the long distance calls illegally by sneaking into the storage room of his Towson apartment building, unplugging his phone jack late at night, and plugging in their own phone.

And although C&P; officials say they've never heard of this kind of theft before, they acknowledge it's possible. "It's just we've never heard of it," said David A. Pacholczyk, a C&P; spokesman.

Kristen and Kelly Marconi, who live in the Rossbrook apartments in Cockeysville, say it happened it to them, too. This month they got a phone bill with more than $130 in 900-number calls, which they say they didn't make.

Their telephone box in the basement is similar to the one in Mr. Taylor's apartment building, they said. Apartment phones can be unplugged and another phone plugged in. The telephone box is open and unlocked, Mrs. Marconi said.

"The calls were made on two different days at 1 in the morning, while we were asleep," she said.

While the phone company promised to put a cover over the telephone box, Mr. Pacholczyk said C&P; is not allowed to lock the phone boxes.

Since the breakup of AT&T; several years ago, Mr. Pacholczyk said, the law has required that customers have access to phone boxes in their homes and in apartment buildings. "We can't lock them," he said.

While the Marconis in Cockeysville figured right away that the illegal calls were being made from their apartment basement, it took Mr. Taylor from last summer to this April to make the connection.

One day last month, Mr. Taylor said, while he was in the basement storage room of his apartment building in Towson, he discovered a phone box with each apartment number labeled.

What's more, he said, the phone box was not locked or covered, and it had ordinary, modular jacks, "so that anyone could just plug their phone in and call anywhere they want."

Mr. Taylor said most of the calls were made last summer and fall when his apartment building was full of college students. So he concluded that other tenants in his building could have made the calls.

But, Mr. Taylor said, the storage room is unlocked and he has come to realize that anyone could have wandered into the building and made the calls, most of which were made after 2 a.m. "I couldn't believe it," said Mr. Taylor, 30, an employee with the Baltimore County Health Department, who until last week lived at the Hampton Apartments in Towson.

After months of arguing with C&P; Telephone Co. officials over the calls, he's gotten the phone company to knock off the charges for most of the long distance calls -- although he still owes about $200.

Although he moved out of the Hampton Apartments last week, Mr. Taylor said, he is angry that managers of the apartment building didn't lock the storage room. They "assured me that they were going to put a lock on there," he said. "But they never did."

Not so, said Virginia Coke, property manager for the Hampton Apartments. She said there used to be a lock on the storage room in Mr. Taylor's building, but that she had it removed after Mr. Taylor himself complained about not being able to get into the storage room at night.

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