New England Telephone is investigating an "out of the ordinary" number of incorrectly billed phone calls originating from the University in recent months, a telephone company spokesman said yesterday.
Jean Arsenal, a telephone company representative, said her company is looking into a number of Harvard student accounts to determine to whom 19 pages of unaccounted credit card calls should be billed. She refused to say how much money the unaccounted calls cost.
A Harvard student who asked not to be identified said recently that college students across the country, including many enrolled at Harvard, are using a telephone credit card number that is not theirs. The source added that most charged about $30 to the number.
The source estimated that at least 100 Harvard students are involved. "I personally know ten who have used the credit card number," he added.
Arsenal said the telephone company contacted University officials, but refused to identify which ones.
But an administrator in the office of the dean of students, who asked not to be identified, said the University is not aware of any problem concerning students and New England Telephone. "In any interaction between students and an outside company, students are almost always considered private citizens: the University does not get involved," he added.
Several students, who asked not to be identified, said that a credit card number was circulating on campus last December and that many people used it to make free calls.
One student said New England Telephone told him in February that they knew of his misuse of the number. "They said I would be billed for the calls I made and that nothing else would happen--provided the other people involved cooperated with the telephone company," he added.
"In the case of mis-billed calls, we attempt to straighten out the problem." Charles Reardon, a spokesman for the New England Telephone public relations department said yesterday. "However, if we see a pattern, that is, if we think some type of fraud is involved, we refer the matter to our security division, which then decides how to proceed," he added.
He refused to say if the security division is investigating the Harvard situation or if the police had been contacted.
A student who was involved said he hopes the telephone company will be satisfied to get its money back. "It was only a prank, really. I realize how it was a stupid thing to do. We have all learned our lesson," he added.