Answering Machine Intruder
There is no legal way to use this device, but you can buy one. So can that deranged ex-boyfriend who will never get you out of his buzzing head. The Answering Machine Intruder defeats an answering machine's security code system, allowing unauthorized users to remotely retrieve your messages, so long as the machine uses a one, two or three-digit code (most do). The price is $149.

Recognizing a potential market when it sees one, SHOMER TEC says that the Intruder vill not work on answering machines that are connected to the Answering Machine Protector. They'll sell you one of those for $129. The company also sells run-of-the-mine-type bugs, like surveillance transmitters ($249), but those can be detected with devices like the ProSweep bug detector, which seeks out transmitter signals up to 2500Hz ($499). But there's one kind of room bug that the ProSweep won't find. It's a bug that doesn't use a transmitter, but rather uses your own telephone line to send a signal back to the listener. It's not a bug on the phone—it's a bug in the phone, and it picks up conversations in the room whether somebody's using the phone or not.

Mike Peros found one of those inside a client's telephone. Since they don't send out a telltale radio signal, the only way to find one is to open up the phone and look, he says.

These things used to be little homemade devices you would cobble together from obscure plans drafted by the same kind of guys whose mastery of high school civics leads them to challenge the legitimacy of any government bigger than the county commission. The plans were more vague than a 7th-grade science project, but infinity transmitters did exist. What they would do (when they worked) was make a telephone into a room bug. In the old days of fault-based divorce and no federal wiretap laws, you'd install it in your bedroom Bell Systems Princess Phone (R), and when you went out of town, you'd dial your home number, disable the ring, and hear every grunt and groan your soon-to-be-ex-spouse made as s/he humped the rowing machine. These things never worked, and if they did, the bedroom phone never rang, which was a dead give away that something was wrong with the phone.

But times change. Which brings us to...


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