Arizona school district blames hackers for $50,000 phone bill

What would you do if hackers got into your long distance phone service and made hundreds of international calls on your dime?
 
That's what officials with a small Arizona school district say they've been dealing with over the last few months.
 
It's the Cedar School district in Northeastern Arizona.
 
Superintendent Kim Randall shows me pages and pages of calls there were apparently made from their phone lines, to the Dominican Republic.
 
Kim says when their long distance phone company, MCI warned them about the problem, they took drastic action.
 
"We blocked all the calls for 14 days while we tried to figure things out," she says.
 
But Kim says the district is in a very rural area and long distance is important.
 
So, they decided to put security codes on 6 of their dozen or so phone lines.
 
Kim says the district asked MCI to unlock just those 6 lines and leave the rest remained blocked.
 
But she says, that didn't happen.
 
"At that time MCI unblocked everything and now we have a $50,000 phone bill."
 
She showed me the bill. There are pages and pages of hundreds of calls coming from district lines.
 
But Kim says there's no way the district was making the calls.
 
Some calls are made at exactly the same time. Some last hours and hours.
 
"There aren't even that many people in the district to dial that many numbers that fast to do this," she says.
 
Kim says their system was hacked, but that MCI would not forgive the massive bill.
 
I asked her how tough it would be for the district to pay $50,000.
 
"Oh man, we'd have to quit doing a lot of things," she says.
 
So Kim let me know about it.
 
We first contacted MCI and then went to Verizon, which owns the company.
 
Verizon says: “We have thoroughly reviewed the situation, and we have concluded that we provided the customer with all services requested, and that the outstanding bill is accurate. However, as a courtesy to the school district, we have issued a credit for the disputed amount.”
 
Kim says that's great news and a huge relief for the district.
 
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