Faulty Washington County phone books recalled

gift cards offered for their return

June 18, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

For more information

Verizon has said anyone whose private information was printed in Ogden Directories' 2008-09 EZ To Use Big Book can call Verizon at 301-954-6260 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Information about how people can return a copy of the directory in exchange for a gift card can be found at or by calling 301-766-4331.

HAGERSTOWN -- Washington County residents are being offered $5 gift cards to return a phone directory in which thousands of private listings were accidentally published.


Verizon and Ogden Directories are working together to recall Ogden's 2008-09 Washington County EZ To Use Big Book, which includes about 11,000 unlisted and nonpublished numbers. Verizon, which supplied listings for the book, has blamed a computer error.

The Maryland Public Service Commission called Verizon to Baltimore for a hearing on June 5, five days after a Herald-Mail story revealed what happened.

The commission still was reviewing information from Verizon on Tuesday, PSC spokeswoman LaWanda Edwards said. The commission hasn't indicated if or when it will take any action.

The accidental release of phone numbers and addresses has angered and frightened people trying to keep them confidential, particularly law enforcement officers and domestic violence victims.

Verizon has apologized and promised to waive the fee for people changing their phone numbers because of the error.

The phone company also is giving affected customers a $25 credit, the approximate cost for having a phone number unlisted or not published for one year.

Verizon is offering to pay up to $1,000 apiece for security systems for people who might be in danger because their information was released.

People who received the EZ To Use Big Book soon will get postcards asking them to mail their copy back in a prepaid envelope, which they'll get separately, Verizon spokeswoman Sandra Arnette said. Each will get a $5 Visa gift card.

Community safety should motivate people to return the directories, Arnette said. "We certainly wouldn't want people to think this is a book they should hold onto," she said.

She said proceeds from recycled directories will be donated to Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused, a Hagerstown nonprofit organization.

The postcards sent to residents this week don't say why the Ogden directories are being collected, Arnette said.

A Web site set up to go with the recall,, doesn't mention the release of private listings and only refers to the recycling aspect.

Paula Carmody, Maryland's people's counsel, who represents residential utility customers, said the lack of an explanation probably stems from concerns about publicizing private phone numbers and addresses.

However, the public's right to know what has happened should supersede, she said.

A new, correct EZ To Use Big Book for Washington County is being printed and should reach people in a week, said Julie Kruger, a sales manager for Ogden Directories.

Verizon has promised to pay the cost of printing a new directory.

It wasn't clear on Tuesday who is paying for the $5 gift cards. Arnette referred questions to Ogden, and Kruger referred questions to Verizon.

During this month's PSC hearing, Tom Moran of Verizon put the number of public calls about the directory at "less than 600."

He said about 15 who appealed to the company's highest level could be eligible for up to $1,000 toward the cost of a security system.

Arnette said she didn't know if more people have become eligible since the hearing.

Neal Glessner, the president of Glessner Alarm & Communications in Hagerstown, said about a dozen people whose private information was published -- mostly in law enforcement -- have asked his company about security systems, although none had purchased one yet.

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said he read about Verizon's offer to pay for security systems, but added, "I have not been able to get anybody to tell me that from the company."

At his Baltimore law firm's Web site, Adam Greivell, an attorney who grew up in Hagerstown, is asking people affected by the phone directory problem to contact him. About 15 have responded, he said.

Lawyers will meet with those people soon in Hagerstown to figure out whether to take legal action, Greivell said.

The Herald-Mail Articles