Scammers making use of Telstra landline bug – part 3

Oops, a change of plan

It is only just this week that it occurred to me that I was most likely an unwitting victim of this bug, 21 years ago (early 1995). The planned Facts and myths about this landline bug will now be Part 4.

This is Part 3 of Scammers making use of Telstra landline bug. Read about the scam in Part 1, and learn how to test your landline for the bug in Part 2.

An unwitting victim

I was not able to call for an ambulance to a neighbour’s kitchen knife accident.

Of the six people involved in the incident, only my wife and I understand English clearly, which added to the problems/confusion.

My mother-in-law was visiting neighbours when she called out to us there had been an accident in the kitchen (and then continued in Khmer[1], to my wife). I rushed into the house and saw the mother and son huddled together. The mother was clearly distressed, and there was quite a bit of blood, but there was no ongoing blood loss and they weren’t losing consciousness, so I picked up the phone to call 000. But there was an Asian voice on the line.

Queensland Ambulance Service vehicle

Ambulance[2]

I hung up for a few seconds, but the voice was still there, saying “Hello, hello”. Despite saying “please hang up”, and “Emergency here, please hang up”, it was a case of message received but not understood. I asked the victims where the other telephone was (thinking the voice was on another telphone extension somewhere else in the house, unaware of the drama). And I raced around the house and into the bedroom, but found no-one and no other telephone. We had just moved in and didn’t have our own telephone, so after trying the telephone once more, I ran to the payphone down the street and called the Ambulance.

The Ambulance eventually came and took them to hospital.

In the days and weeks afterward

Me, my wife, and my mother-in-law had come from New Zealand a few months before, where one can disconnect a remote caller by simply hanging up, provided that no-one else on your line has another phone off-hook.

Diagram showing a telephone call from phone A to phone line B which has two phones, B-x and B-y. Phone B-y is off-hook talking to A. Phone B-x is on-hook (idle)

Diagram of telephone call[3]
In New Zealand, phone B-x can get dial-tone provided phone B-y also hangs up.
In Australia, phone A must also hang up.

Referring to the diagram above, I raced around the house looking for phone B-y. But my mother-in-law knew the neighbours quite well and clarified there’s only one phone in the house, and that it was working (the day after), leading me to assume that it was on a party line[4]. They were unusual in urban areas, but one of my own friends had a 2-party line in Johnsonville (NZ) in 1989 – so it definitely wasn’t impossible.

I will never be absolutely certain of the truth, but it wasn’t until a few weeks after the scam story broke, and a few days after I wrote Part 2 that I realised that this bug is a much more plausible explanation for the difficulties. It means that in Australia, both the A-party and other telephones on the B-party’s line must hang up before the B-party can get dial-tone.

This has to change.

UPDATE Part 4 – Facts and myths about this landline bug is now available.

Links and Footnotes

Whether you were shocked, or simply said "yeah, whatever", please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. You should also advise friends and family. You may contact me privately at nick4temp-thatgeek {at) yahoo.com.au

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