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Phone directory has about 13,000 unlisted numbers

May 31, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - The unlisted telephone numbers of nearly 13,000 people were printed in the Washington County Phone Book after Verizon inadvertently sold the information to the phone book publisher, a Verizon spokesman said.

Harry Mitchell, Verizon director of media relations, said Friday that Verizon was trying to determine how about 12,500 unlisted numbers and addresses, primarily of Washington County residents, were printed in the phone book published by Ogden Directories Inc.

"Verizon accepts responsibility," Mitchell said. "We certainly apologize to those customers whose numbers were published. ... We're taking accountability for that."

Mitchell said Verizon started calling customers Friday to tell them about the mistake.

Verizon will change the published numbers for free and will for a one-year period reimburse the $1.89 monthly cost of having an unlisted number, Mitchell said.

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Verizon acknowledged that the mistake was "big" but said it was isolated.

"We provide tens of millions of accurate listings annually," Mitchell said. "When an incident like this happens, we take corrective measures to keep it from recurring."

Julie Kruger, sales manager for Ogden Directories Inc., said the company bought listings for inclusion in the phone book from Verizon without knowing unlisted numbers were involved.

"(Verizon) is never to pass on unlisted numbers," Kruger said. "Verizon is at fault."

The phone books containing the unlisted numbers were delivered across Washington County, according to Kruger, who said she thought the mistake was limited to Washington County.

Ogden asked the postal service to stop delivering the books, but a majority already had been delivered, Kruger said. Phone books that hadn't gone to print will be corrected, she said.

Yvette Singh, a U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman, said post offices stopped distributing the book Friday.

Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said some of his deputies, who have unlisted numbers and addresses for safety reasons, called Verizon to complain, but the telephone giant had not responded.

"Many of our personnel are in the book," Mullendore said. "I don't know how many have been affected or what will happen at this point."

Mullendore said regardless of the outcome, the damage already has been done.

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said Friday a few of his officers who heard that their unlisted numbers had been printed were upset. In addition to being concerned for their safety, Smith said he was unsettled that others, particularly victims of domestic violence, could be affected by the error.

"That's a big mistake, and I hope nothing bad happens," Smith said. "It's a shame."

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