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''Idol'' producers sue over phony phone number for voters

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Simon Cowell
Simon Cowell: A. Rapoport

Is another ”American Idol” phone-voting controversy in the works? Last year, producers admitted that callers armed with power-dialing devices were able to vote thousands of times a night from a single phone line, though producers said that power-dialers weren’t statistically significant enough to alter the ultimate outcome of the votes. Now, they say, there’s another abuse of the phone-voting system going on, and this time, they’re taking legal action.

According to E! Online, the ”Idol” producers are filed suit Wednesday in Los Angeles against a Utah firm called Telemarketing, Inc., which has created a bogus 800 number that is nearly identical to the ”Idol” voting line’s 866 number. Voting for ”Idol” is supposed to be a toll-free call, but the suit alleges that callers who misdial and reach the Telemarketing number are redirected to a 900 line that charges them $1.99. The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages and an order to make Telemarketing take the fake number out of service and prevent the firm from creating additional voter-siphoning lines.

It’s not clear how many people were taken in by the scam, how long it’s been going on, or whether the voting thus far has been affected. Producers first made public mention of the vote-siphoning on Tuesday’s episode when host Ryan Seacrest urged voters to dial carefully and watch out for instructions diverting them to the 900 number. About all that is clear is that, even if everyone in America had dialed correctly, Frenchie would still be toast.