TIME WAS: Too many sex hotline calls forces Chugiak High payphone to be cut off
The following article originally appeared in the June 2, 1983 edition of the Star:
Subscribers get bills for juvenile calls to hear recorder talk dirty
When an Eagle River residence opened her Matanuska telephone bill Wednesday and found that she’d been charged for 31 calls to New York, she thought there’d been some mistake.
No mistake, she was told. The calls had been made from her phone. She dialed one of the two similar numbers and the result, she said “made me totally sick. What I got was sexual fantasy, moaning and groaning. I couldn’t believe it.”
She isn’t alone in her dismay, says MTA manager Larry Grant. “We’ve had a lot of complaints from parents. But there is nothing we can do. A lot of people come in to pay their bills and say Hey, this number — we didn’t call it. And they probably didn’t. But their kids, or their kids’ friends may have. Kids are using friends’ phones to make these calls.”
At Chugiak High School, principal Bill Kuhlmann said he first was alerted to the sex-by-phone fad among teenagers when he was told that the pay phone at the school wasn’t working. He called the phone company and found that the phone service had been cut off because of the abuse of long-distance calling privileges. Kuhlmann said he learned that “kids were dialing a number in New York, and then before the operator could collect the charges, they’d heard part of the conversation and would hang up.”
The phone company was reluctant to renew the pay phone services, but Kuhlmann said that cancelling it “wasn’t the way to go. The number of people who come to athletic events and need to call long distance from the school make it important to have the pay phone here.”
Kuhlmann said he thinks “we headed it off here. We emphasized that this was a type of fraud on the phone company, and the problem seems to have tapered off.”
Kuhlmann said that the phone numbers apparently were printed in a magazine article and that they were first picked up on by students, who passed them to one another about six weeks ago.
Grant said it was “unfortunate” that there are several numbers Outside where the sex-related calls can be placed. Making the calls, he said, is not illegal. “If they have access to the network, then they can dial it.”
Like Kuhlmann, he thinks perhaps the novelty is wearing off. He hasn’t had so many complaints lately and hopes that the problem will fade of its own accord.
Kuhlmann believes parents can speed up its disappearance by discussing the difference between long distance and local calls with their children, and emphasizing that the numbers they or their friends may be calling are not toll-free. Some youngsters, he says, apparently don’t realize that their parents will be charged for the calls.
Until then, parents will probably have to face the dismaying evidence that their kids’ curiousity is costly.