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Stonington residents target of mysterious, incessant phone calls

Stonington - Almost like clockwork, Liz Viering's phone started to ring every two hours Wednesday afternoon. It didn't stop until 9 a.m. Thursday.

Viering is among hundreds of Stonington residents who received incessant phone calls - some every half-hour - from what appeared to be a Wyoming-based telephone number.

"They don't say anything," said Viering of the calls. "I've answered it numerous times and you just hear a click on the other end."

Viering said she first started to notice the phone number, (307) 459-1039, on her caller ID on Feb. 26.

Police received hundreds of complaints Wednesday night and Thursday about the calls. Working with telecommunication and information technology companies, police on Thursday were able to block that phone number.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said his office is also looking into the problem and called the mass calling "unprecedented" because so many people were affected. He added that his office would provide assistance to local authorities if needed.

Viering said the calls were made to her business line, which she forwards to her cell phone. She said she tried to reach the number but only got a recording with a British accent. She called AT&T and was told the number could be blocked for a fee.

"It's extremely frustrating because there's nothing you can do," said Viering.

Chatham Carillo said she started to receive phone calls every hour from 9 p.m. Wednesday to 5:30 a.m. Thursday. As in Viering's case, there was no one on the line.

Carillo said she became so frustrated with the calls that she unplugged her phone at 2 a.m. "I was annoyed and tired from being woken up every hour," she said.

A call to the number Thursday produced a recording stating that the number had been disconnected.

Police Capt. Jerry Desmond said it appears almost every part of town was affected by the calls, which he said were being made from an automated system. He could not say whether the calls were being intentionally made or if there was a glitch in the automated system. And while the phone number appeared to be from Wyoming, that doesn't mean the calls originated there, he added.

The practice of masking a telephone number - when a recipient's caller ID display shows a number that is not the actual originating station - is called "caller ID spoofing."

An online search showed the phone number has generated complaints from all over the country. Residents from as far off as Alaska to California said people using the number purport themselves to be telemarketers, timeshare representatives and attorneys.

"We're working hard on this," said Desmond. "We're trying to prevent this from happening again."

i.larraneta@theday.com

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