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Hello:

I received a phone call on my cell phone from 999-999-9999. They kept calling and calling, and for a while I only got dead air when I answered. However once when I answered a guy was on the other end. He stated that he had been watching me and couldn�t believe how beautiful I was (he obviously had never really seen me, I'm no supermodel) and that he walks by the coffee shop I frequent all the time (I don't drink coffee nor do I frequent coffee shops). He said he was in Nevada; I live in New Hampshire. I've never even been to Nevada! I had my boyfriend call the number back and we did end up getting through, and it was the same guy! He sounded like he's from Haiti or something like that. Ever since we talked to this guy I haven�t gotten a phone call from 999-999-9999 at all.

Jessica Siemba, Hooksett, NH

Our board of directors here at International Alice LLC has awarded you our coveted Kay Lastima Trophy. It's given to the person who just can't seem to catch a break. Not only are you plagued by telemarketers, your particular telemarketer is an obscene stalker.

We've talked about this 999 thing before, but your story has a twist. As we said, the 999 number is fake-- a number that telemarketers and others can program into their phone system for outgoing calls when you don't want to be identified. If you have the right phone setup, any call originating in your office can bear any number and name you want; that's the number and name that will show up on our caller IDs.

The dead air you heard means your number was dialed by an autodial machine, which cranks through a whole phone book full of numbers in a flash. When some poor schmo (you) picks up the ringing phone and says hello, the system notifies a live human bean in the telemarketing office to pick up his phone and start selling. The dead air is the lag between the time you answer and the time the telebozo picks up. Dead air is a good indicator that the incoming call is going to be annoying.

The big twist in your story is the fact that you "call[ed] the number back" and got the same guy. Immm-possible, sez my source, who actually sells and installs huge phone networks for a huge Japanese company. He's set up lotsa' business and government systems that can program their own outgoing data.

When you make a call, the phone company's equipment receives not only the number you dialed, but also the number you're dialing from. (This is why the person you call can *69 you.) In the case of your telemarketer, the only outgoing number the phone co. got was the fake 999, not the real number of the telemarketer's office. (That's the whole point of hiding a real number -- so you can call idiots, but the idiots can't call you back.) Because there is no such area code as 999, if you redial you get the message that your call can't be completed.

"Okay, smart guy," I sez to my friend. "Explain Jessica's story." After considerable pondering and dead air, my friend replies, "The only possible explanation is that for whatever reason the original connection between the calls was never broken. You can't call a 999 number and have the call go through

Does this scenario sound familiar, Jessica?

Custom ring tone, custom ring tone. "Oh, honey, it's those 999 people again. Uh, hello?"

Brief dead air. Off-shore Caribbean accent, "Hey, beautiful lady, I've had my eye on you at de Cesar's Palace Starbucks."

"Eeeek! You pervert!" Jessica jams her thumb at what she thinks is the hang-up button. "Here, babycakes. Call him back and give him a piece of your mind!"

*69.

"Hello, mon. You da boyfriend?"

"Yeah, you Bahamian scumbucket. Don't call here again!"

"Okay, mon. No problem. Don't worry, be happy." He removes your number from his data base of suckers to cover his own butt..

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