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Sep 26, 2000

Customers conspire to beat pay phones

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While some BTL customers are using technology to beat the system, others are using good old-fashioned thievery. One Belize City businessman who has a desk type pay phone for the convenience of customers, has been beaten for thousands of dollars.

Ramon Cervantes, BTL Customer

“Men and women have been coming to use the phone. When we got the August bill we jumped because there was a $400 plus worth of calls to international countries. Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon, Netherlands, Germany, U.K., USA, you name it, there were there. These people come to change $5 or $10 into coins. And somehow they manage to get through to the international telephones. So seeing that when we got the August telephone bill, I ran down to BTL two days ago and asked for a printout of the September bill. Lo and behold, from the 1st of September to the 31st of September there was a long list of international telephone calls totaling $1,247. Our telephone has collected no where close to more than maybe $50.”

“I paged through the telephone directory for the rates to Africa. It’s supposed to be $5.75 per minute. On Saturday, I experimented, I took the number of one of the telephone in Nigeria. I experimented and put 4 quarters in the telephone and I got through to that telephone in Nigeria.”

“I think something is definitely wrong with the telephone or the programming of the telephone. And to add insult to injury, BTL is demanding that I pay almost $2,000 tomorrow to meet these calls. I think it’s most unfair. I think BTL should have a good look at the system of these coin telephones.”

A little bit of research by News Five has solved the mystery. It seems that all of these types of pay phones have a lock which prevents users from pushing a switch, which opens the phone to unlimited free use. The problem is that it appears the key to one phone can be used to open the locks on any of the phones. Cervantes’ clever customers just used a key to turn the pay phone into a no-pay phone. It remains to be seen how BTL will view the situation, but in the meantime pay phone owners need to keep a close eye on how the instruments are used.

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