Monday, January 17, 2011

Google Voice + Qwest Security Screen = Oops, $$$

Steps to reproduce the problem:
  1. Have a Qwest landline;
  2. Have the Anonymous Call Rejection and Security Screen on;
  3. Initiate a Google Voice long distance call from your computer;
  4. Wait in disbelief while nothing is happening;
  5. Knowing that GV is flaky sometimes, repeat the attempt a few times;
  6. Give up and use a different way to make a call;
  7. Only to realize later that you've been billed for all attempts to make a call, with no calls being actually made, as far as you are concerned.
Investigation showed that starting a couple of months ago numbers used by Google Voice started being recognized as "Out of area" by Qwest. At this point it seems that Qwests' Security Screen kicked in a voice playback to the caller prompting them to enter their number, and Google's calling service wasn't expecting that, and still continued the call establishment on the target side, thinking that the calling party has picked up the phone.

Likewise, for some callers (not all), your line with Security Screen on it doesn't ring.

It is interesting to note that disabling the Anonymous Call Rejection (*87) doesn't actually do anything - the call still doesn't go through, and you still get billed for the attempt.

However, removing Security Screen from your account helps. It was a useless service anyway - whereas intended to give your possible legitimate callers a way to complete the call, it, in fact, gives illegitimate callers a way to spoof the Caller ID - the number they enter may be anything, and not too many people even remember the meaning of a double ring nowadays.

Why the hell does one keep the landline anyway?

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