Beware The Voice Mail Hacker

Ah, voice mail. It promised such efficiencies. But as some Hewlett-Packard Co. divisions are discovering, even the most high-tech system can get all choked up. It seems a customer recently called an HP service line in Colorado to track down an order--but had to leave a message. In mid-sentence, the caller began coughing. And coughing. And coughing. For the next 40 seconds, she hacked into the receiver, finally gasping: "Maybe I should call back." Whoever picked up the message in Colorado began forwarding the tubercular P. S. to voice mailboxes all over the company, and it started to multiply. It wasn't long before entire departments were getting the ever-longer coughathon, which collected a chain of prefaces such as: "You've got to hear this--it's hilarious." Not everyone thinks it's so funny, though. The companywide yuk-yuk, grouses one employee, "has jammed up my mailbox."

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