Phone company switches neighbors' phone lines

PINOLE, Calif.

Sally Cieslak had never met Ruth Anne Johnson, who lives down the street, until an odd twist of fate brought them together.

"I came home one day and we didn't have any phones whatsoever," Johnson said.

Landlines went down all along the quiet street. And when service came back, something strange began to happen.

"We started getting calls for people that we had no idea who they were," Cieslak said.

Johnson kept getting calls for people she didn't know. The same happened to Cieslak.

Cieslak started to ask callers for the number they were trying to reach and soon learned they had all dialed the same number, but it was not hers. So Cieslak called the mystery number only to hear her own phone start to ring. So she dialed her own number and to her amazement, an unfamiliar voice picked up.

Cieslak and Johnson realized they were neighbors and they were getting each other's phone calls, some of them rather private.

"It was breaching confidentiality for me to know about them which really made me wonder what they knew about me," Cieslak said.

They both kept calling AT&T, which kept promising to fix the problem. However, weeks later, they were still getting each other's calls. Soon they started relaying messages.

"I had to accept what was going on and take a name and number," Johnson said.

Finally, AT&T gave Johnson instructions on fixing the phones herself. She said forget it and contacted 7 On Your Side.

After being contacted by 7 On Your Side, AT&T came right out and plugged the right phones into the right houses.

The company issued a statement saying, "The issue, which our technicians have since resolved, was our mistake and we apologize for the inconvenience it has caused."

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