Not Working at a Call Center

by XlogicX

Back when I was in high school, I worked at a call center, a job many of us have came across.  I've done a variety of call center jobs: inbound credit card activation, outbound telemarketing (didn't last very long), and outbound surveys.  Right now I'm back to the call center after years working as a rent-a-cop.  I now do tech-support, and I'm reminded of a trick that still works: How to not work a whole shift by using the phone system.


It all started back at the original call center while working with some friends.  We had a 30-minute lunch and two normal ten-minute breaks.  We also had an extra ten minutes of break that could be used however we wanted.  We could take three, three-minute 20-second breaks - or, five two-minute breaks.  My good friend noticed a timing pattern in the queue we got after taking a break.

Say we had a 15-minute wait between calls, normally.  After taking a break, we would be waiting on the phone for just about 15 minutes until we got a call.  My friend looked over the supervisor's monitor and saw that after logging back into the phone, that user would be placed at the bottom of the queue.  This doesn't sound like too big of a deal; most people know that this type of system works this way.  It's only fair that the agent isn't bombarded with calls right after break.  But that's not how the mind of a hacker thinks.  How could this be used in a way it's not intended to be used?

The Exploit

It's the extra ten minutes.  Knowing that there was a 15-minute wait period, my friend would wait ten minutes and take a one-second break.  Fifteen minutes after the break, he got a call.  To recap, that is 25 minutes between calls.  After trying this, he took a one-second break every ten minutes for the remainder of the shift.  For that entire period of time, he mysteriously didn't get any more calls.  He told us of his discovery the next day.  So for our entire shift, none of us took a single call - for a whole eight-hour shift!

On most call center phone systems, this is an "aux" code.  There are different aux codes for different reasons: lunch, training, data entry, break, etc.

For this exploit, we used the aux code for a break (Aux #2 where I work now, on an AVAYA phone system).  It was O.K. at the original call center because nobody paid any attention to the logs for breaks as long as we weren't exceeding our ten-minute limit to our extra break time.  You may not want to try the method that lets you not take any calls, but there is another way to reduce calls that probably won't get you caught, though it won't give you as much free time as the above method.

Say you notice that there are about 16 minutes in between calls and you are about read to go on a break or lunch.  Most people wait until they finish a call and then take a break.  In our case, wait 15 minutes (or as close as you can without actually getting the call) after your last call, and then go on break.  Those are 15 whole minutes of easy money, and you'll probably end up doing this four times in a shift.  So that can add up to about an extra hour of no work in each eight-hour shift!


Turns out this same old trick works at the call center I just started at.  I'm not going to be using it anymore though; this place audits a lot more.  It wouldn't have been a big deal to lose my job in high school, but now that it gets me food and a place to sleep, I don't want to mess around as much at work.  I still may end up using the trick of waiting after a call before lunch though, as this is less noticeable.  By they way, I did end up getting fired from that original job while I was in high school.  I guess putting a hard drive magnet up to a non-degaussable monitor wasn't the right thing to do, especially when the monitor was in the cube next to me with someone using it at the time.  They said they would call me back if they needed further help.  It's been a while.

Shouts: Evin, Skyler, Dual_Parallel