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Why does my telephone pick up other poeple's phone calls?

DMA:

How is it possible that I can pick up my phone and feed into someone's living room/office? This has happened several times, sometimes without even dialing, sometimes after dialing only the prefix, sometimes after dialing the entire number. I can hear a TV, radio/stereo, people walking around, etc. The phone company says this is not possible. What do your spy-tech sources say?

-- Canned and Bugged, East San Diego

Dear Matthew Alice:

My telephone has rung once at 12:21 a.m. every Monday morning since around last June. This didn't happen until I got a portable phone. When I plug in my old regular phone, it doesn't happen. Caller ID and *69 haven't revealed the source of the ring. Pacific Bell put a trap on my line while I dutifully logged all the calls, but they never even showed up in the phone system. Apparently the ring is coming from some outside source. A Pacific Bell employee suggested that perhaps my phone is set off when a neighbor hangs up their more powerful portable phone or cell phone. Or maybe someone in my own apartment building calls someone every Monday at 12:21 a.m. (or hangs up at that time). He also suggested it could be set off by some timer at a place such as a nearby fire department. Maybe it's a CB radio. But 12:21 seems like an odd "regular" shut-off/turn-on time to me. Any ideas?

-- Mystified in Hillcrest

The technoelves are flattered that you should turn to us after carefully investigating the problem with the phoneco. As if we have some secret knowledge not available to them. Part of the problem at their end and ours is not knowing anything about what's around your home. The MA wavemaster agrees with the phoneco. There's a cordless device nearby, most likely a timer, that emits a signal that rings your phone, which is undoubtedly one of the old, very leaky 49 megahertz types. (Your clock may say 12:21; the timer may say 12:15 or 12:30, so the odd hour is probably a red herring. The regularity is more significant than the actual numbers.) But since we don't know where you live, we're stumped. You may have to go door to door inquiring.

In the case of Canned and Bugged, I'm surprised the phoneco didn't offer this suggestion. Someone nearby has a cordless 49mHz baby monitor. It is not unusual for phones and monitors to interfere with one another. The monitors have a transmitter at the baby end and a receiver at the mommy end. Your cordless phone is a transmitter and receiver. Any leaky signal at the right frequency could be picked up by your receiver, whether you've dialed or not. But it also means that if your transmitter leaks over into mom's receiver, she might freak when she hears her sweet little newby calling Domino's for a pizza. Our wavemaster suggests you and Mystified try one of those 900mHz spread-spectrum digital cordless jobbies developed by the CIA, virtually impossible to crack.

Dear Matthew Alice:

When we lived in Hillcrest about ten years ago, we were similarly awakened almost nightly by a light ringing of one of our telephones. Like "Mystified," upon picking up the receiver, there was never a voice at the other end. I called 611 to ask if they were testing our line nightly. She said that regular tests were made on selected circuits, but the test voltage was so low that we shouldn't hear it. I asked her to please remove us from the list of test circuits. She said she would. We never heard the mysterious nightly rings again.

-- Anonymous, no longer from Hillcrest

I'm still holding out for the satellite explanation, but in the meantime, Anonymous suggests that some phones of, shall we say, casual quality might respond to the phone co's low-voltage test signal. Though he wishes to remain nameless, Anonymous does have the technical bona fides to know what he's talking about. As I recall, Mystified's was not a test phone, so this note is probably more helpful to others similarly afflicted.

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DMA:

How is it possible that I can pick up my phone and feed into someone's living room/office? This has happened several times, sometimes without even dialing, sometimes after dialing only the prefix, sometimes after dialing the entire number. I can hear a TV, radio/stereo, people walking around, etc. The phone company says this is not possible. What do your spy-tech sources say?

-- Canned and Bugged, East San Diego

Dear Matthew Alice:

My telephone has rung once at 12:21 a.m. every Monday morning since around last June. This didn't happen until I got a portable phone. When I plug in my old regular phone, it doesn't happen. Caller ID and *69 haven't revealed the source of the ring. Pacific Bell put a trap on my line while I dutifully logged all the calls, but they never even showed up in the phone system. Apparently the ring is coming from some outside source. A Pacific Bell employee suggested that perhaps my phone is set off when a neighbor hangs up their more powerful portable phone or cell phone. Or maybe someone in my own apartment building calls someone every Monday at 12:21 a.m. (or hangs up at that time). He also suggested it could be set off by some timer at a place such as a nearby fire department. Maybe it's a CB radio. But 12:21 seems like an odd "regular" shut-off/turn-on time to me. Any ideas?

-- Mystified in Hillcrest

The technoelves are flattered that you should turn to us after carefully investigating the problem with the phoneco. As if we have some secret knowledge not available to them. Part of the problem at their end and ours is not knowing anything about what's around your home. The MA wavemaster agrees with the phoneco. There's a cordless device nearby, most likely a timer, that emits a signal that rings your phone, which is undoubtedly one of the old, very leaky 49 megahertz types. (Your clock may say 12:21; the timer may say 12:15 or 12:30, so the odd hour is probably a red herring. The regularity is more significant than the actual numbers.) But since we don't know where you live, we're stumped. You may have to go door to door inquiring.

In the case of Canned and Bugged, I'm surprised the phoneco didn't offer this suggestion. Someone nearby has a cordless 49mHz baby monitor. It is not unusual for phones and monitors to interfere with one another. The monitors have a transmitter at the baby end and a receiver at the mommy end. Your cordless phone is a transmitter and receiver. Any leaky signal at the right frequency could be picked up by your receiver, whether you've dialed or not. But it also means that if your transmitter leaks over into mom's receiver, she might freak when she hears her sweet little newby calling Domino's for a pizza. Our wavemaster suggests you and Mystified try one of those 900mHz spread-spectrum digital cordless jobbies developed by the CIA, virtually impossible to crack.

Dear Matthew Alice:

When we lived in Hillcrest about ten years ago, we were similarly awakened almost nightly by a light ringing of one of our telephones. Like "Mystified," upon picking up the receiver, there was never a voice at the other end. I called 611 to ask if they were testing our line nightly. She said that regular tests were made on selected circuits, but the test voltage was so low that we shouldn't hear it. I asked her to please remove us from the list of test circuits. She said she would. We never heard the mysterious nightly rings again.

-- Anonymous, no longer from Hillcrest

I'm still holding out for the satellite explanation, but in the meantime, Anonymous suggests that some phones of, shall we say, casual quality might respond to the phone co's low-voltage test signal. Though he wishes to remain nameless, Anonymous does have the technical bona fides to know what he's talking about. As I recall, Mystified's was not a test phone, so this note is probably more helpful to others similarly afflicted.

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