Cordless phone mysteriously rings
February 7, 2009 11:01 PM   Subscribe

Why is one of our cordless phones ringing when no call is coming in?

We just got home last night from a week's vacation, and today one of our cordless phones has rung when no call is coming in. It didn't do this before we left (although it may have been doing it while we were gone). This happened three times today, with the phone ringing about four times each occurrence. When we answer the phone, there is nothing. This phone is a GE 5.8 GHz. We have two other cordless phones, both Panasonic 2.4 GHz, which are not ringing at these odd times (nor, obviously, are our two corded phones). We did get one legitimate incoming call today, for which all the phones rang normally. We get a normal dial tone on the misbehaving phone. This phone is in the same room as our AirPort wireless router, but nothing has changed there and we have never had a problem before. Any ideas what's going on?
posted by Joleta to Technology (12 answers total)
A neighbor just bought a wireless phone?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:07 PM on February 7, 2009

Best answer: This used to be a common thing in college dorms. Someone in the area has a phone on the same frequency. Your manual has a way of changing the frequency.
posted by sanka at 11:21 PM on February 7, 2009

I've had this happen before when the battery on the handset is either running down or going bad.
posted by koeselitz at 11:23 PM on February 7, 2009

What Chocolate Pickle and sanka said. In undergrad, I had a pair of wireless headphones. They turned out to be fucking worthless because I lived in a brick and steel building, but they did pick up the cordless phone conversations of the guy living directly below me, who at three in the morning would be promoting himself in his Ben Stein type monotone robot speak to various women from online dating sites. Horrifying, but a good companion to tedious lab writeups.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 12:04 AM on February 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

Many cordless phones have a "phone finder" button at the base station that you can press if you don't remember where you put it, which causes the handset to ring. Maybe it is something to do with that?
posted by PontifexPrimus at 4:02 AM on February 8, 2009

If it isn't interference as suggested above, you could be the victim of a robodialer. Telemarketers used to use these things all the time. Basically, the machine dials dozens of semi-random numbers in the hopes that enough people will pick up the phone to keep its operators busy. It then abandons the rest of the calls.

Using these things is against current FTC regulations, but that doesn't stop unscrupulous telemarketers (isn't that redundant?) from using them.

If you really want to confirm what's going on, wait until this happens again and then call the operator and ask them who just called you. If the answer is "no one," then you've got an interference problem. If it's a restricted number or one you've never heard of, it's probably a robodialer.
posted by valkyryn at 4:08 AM on February 8, 2009

Have you been leaving it on the charger? Sometimes phones will make sounds (maybe ringing?) when the battery is running low.
posted by fructose at 7:19 AM on February 8, 2009

*sometimes cordless phones will make sounds, I meant...
posted by fructose at 7:19 AM on February 8, 2009

Response by poster: None of the other phones are ringing, so I don't think it's a robodialer. The phone is sitting in the charger when the mysterious rings happen. We'll try changing the frequency and see if that fixes the problem. If it's the battery going bad, I'll look into a replacement, but I suspect that might cost as much as buying a new inexpensive cordless phone.
posted by Joleta at 8:28 AM on February 8, 2009

You might have an 802.11a, b, or g network in your vicinity.
posted by dhartung at 10:40 PM on February 8, 2009

The wall-wart power adapter might be going bad. I had a cordless phone that would ring incessantly as soon as it was connected to the phone jack; unplugging the phone from the jack stopped the ringing. I eventually figured out that 120VAC was leaking through the wall-wart into the phone line, which the phone interprets as a ring signal. (Aside- never grab the phone terminals when you're expecting a call.)
Wall-wart style adapters are, in general, cheaply made junk. I got a replacement from the mfr for about $6.
posted by leapfrog at 10:57 AM on February 9, 2009

Response by poster: Sorry for the late post. Changing the frequency fixed the problem.
posted by Joleta at 12:53 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

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