Someone is using my wife's phone number: should we worry?
July 28, 2011 9:46 AM   Subscribe

My wife regularly gets calls for a particular different person. Should we be worried?

I don't know whether this is something to be concerned about or not. My wife has been occasionally getting calls intended for a particular individual. They are often related to a resume or a job search. This has happened about five times recently. Googling the name (it's a pretty obscure name) brings up a person in a different state with a possible criminal record. Facebook profile has also been tracked down, but doesn't show us more than a person flipping off the camera. Should we do anything about this?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (22 answers total)
My kneejerk hunch is that whoever this person is, their phone number is similar to your wife's but with two of the numbers in a different order or something, and when they were typing their own resume they made a mistake themselves. And all the people calling you are using the incorrectly-written number on the resume they received.

The fact that you Googled them and found a Facebook profile of them flipping off the camera seems to reinforce the fact that "this is a person who's dim enough to mistype their own phone number."

I wouldn't worry. This seems more of an "annoying but temporary" situation -- eventually your "friend" will catch on to the fact that they wrote their own phone number wrong, and something tells me the employers won't want to be calling them much, so it'll die down in time, I think.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:51 AM on July 28, 2011

I regularly get phone calls to my office line from people wanting to buy a gun they heard about on the radio. It took me a few years of this before I googled extensively enough to figure out that my number is the same as a radio station's in the adjoining area code. People who live in my area code listen to that station and call in, not realizing that the station's office is actually one county over.

So, in short, I wouldn't worry. There are a lot of weird reasons this may be happening and I can't think of any nefarious reason someone would give a fake number for job search purposes.
posted by something something at 9:54 AM on July 28, 2011

Philadelphia's two area codes are similar enough upon first glance (215/267) that people mix them up often enough that I get calls meant for the other area code fairly frequently. None of this strikes me as nefarious, and especially untroubling if the random person lives in another state.
posted by jph at 9:56 AM on July 28, 2011

This used to happen to me a lot. It was especially bad after I first got a cell phone (in like 2004 or 2005 or so). I'm pretty sure that what happened is someone else used to own the number and then did not and then when it was my number I'd sometimes hear from all the contacts they hadn't notified. I don't think there's really much that needs to be done about it, just tell them they've got the wrong number.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:56 AM on July 28, 2011

I get calls for the previous owner of the pre-paid cell that I have. Most of the time they are in Spanish, so I don't know what they are saying. For the longest time, I worried about whoever it was finding out that I was innocently intercepting their phone calls, so I did not respond to the caller. This has been going on for about a year.

Recently, I found out that the person ran an office cleaning crew and used the number as their work number. Now if the caller sounds legit and in English, I give a courtesy call back.

The last time it, happened the caller was a local optometrist.

No harm, no foul.
posted by lampshade at 10:09 AM on July 28, 2011

I get calls for the previous owner of the pre-paid cell that I have. Most of the time they are in Spanish, so I don't know what they are saying. For the longest time, I worried about whoever it was finding out that I was innocently intercepting their phone calls, so I did not respond to the caller. This has been going on for about a year.

This same thing happened to me awhile back, except that the calls were in French and originated from Cote d'Ivoire. It also sounded very much like an elderly person. I used to learn enough French to say "I am an American and do not understand much French. I am sorry, but you have dialed the wrong number."

When I finally got to use it, there was a long pause, a surprised laugh, and what sounded like an effusive apology from the other end. Never got a call back afterward.
posted by jquinby at 10:14 AM on July 28, 2011

Another way this can happen: part of our state changed area codes due to population growth. When a dude with my 7 digits but the new area code was late turning in their movie to Blockbuster, somehow the system had the old area code, so I started getting those automated calls several times every day, grrrr.

I called down to the offending Blockbuster which was so rude and non-helpful, youda thought that they didn't care about getting their movie back at all, GRAR!

This only ended when I called my own number with the correct area code for the guy and left him a rather unlady-like message to take his damn movie back. The calls ended, ahhhh!

Can you discover the correct # and call and let 'em know about the error?
posted by thebrokedown at 10:17 AM on July 28, 2011

I have received hundreds of calls on my work phone in the past 11 years looking for someone who I believe had the number back in the 90s. All of them are from financial services firms, mostly but not exclusively in the NYC area. Before we had Caller ID I would answer normally, realize they were looking for that other guy and ask them to put me on their Do Not Call list. Most of them were nice and did not call back but a couple ignored me and called again (and again). One even got nasty on the phone but since I had his number I gave it to our corporate security office and they took it from there.

Now I simply refuse to pickup when the number looks unfamiliar. "Real" callers will usually leave a voice mail or email me, the others usually won't or will leave a 1 second message consisting of them hanging up. That may be a bit rude for a personal phone but you might consider doing it if the number of calls starts to bug you.
posted by tommasz at 10:24 AM on July 28, 2011

This happens all the time with cell phones. Some woman with a debt problem had my husband's number before him and he really had to convince them that no, he had no clue where she was.

Also, my TV comes up with callers' names when our home phone rings, and my teen sons' calls come up with the names "Angela Walker" and "Karleen Zeigert", which makes me happy every time I see them pop up.
posted by misha at 10:33 AM on July 28, 2011

Our 7-digit home phone is one number off from a local bowling alley. Guess whose calls we often get? Now that there's an overlay for cell phones, we get (fewer) calls for a car dealer. Almost everyone that we actually TALK to is polite and thankful that we are telling them they have the wrong number. The other 2/3 just hang up when they realize they're not talking to the business they want. In both cases, the business is going to be around for a while so we don't expect this to just trail off anytime soon.

I would assume it's scrambled numbers and shrug it off.

Actually, the bigger annoyance is that we have a 921 prefix for cell phones around here. You'd think they wouldn't allow numbers that are 921-1xxx, but they do. And you can imagine how that ends all too frequently.
posted by dhartung at 10:35 AM on July 28, 2011

I got a new phone number in the mid-'90s, and immediately started getting a call or two per week asking for Mister Beavis. (You can imagine the hilarity.) None of the callers would ever identify themselves, so I assume they were bill collectors. Eventually, I learned to say, wearily, "I got this phone number last year, and I've been getting phone calls for Mr Beavis ever since. I don't know who he is, I don't know how to contact him, but he's not at this number." The calls eventually stopped.

One of my friends had a phone number that was one digit different from a sewing-machine repair shop. He would regularly get calls for the repair shop. Most of the time when he told the caller they had the wrong number, they would apologise and hang up. One person refused to believe him, and kept hitting 'redial' until my friend finally said, "I obviously can't fool you. Your sewing machine will be ready on Tuesday at 10:00am. Be sure to bring your claim ticket." He never heard from the caller again.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 10:55 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some woman with a debt problem and a son on juvenile probation either had our house number before we did, or gave out our number as her number (I suspect the latter, based on a couple of conversations I had with caseworkers). Went on for about two years. I would just say, "There's no one here by that name" or "You have the wrong number." With the probation officer and school officials, I would tell them that we often got calls for that person but we had no idea who "Angela" was and that we'd only recently acquired the phone number. The police and schools seemed unsurprised by this turn of events and apologized for the inconvenience.

They eventually tapered off and nothing ever came of it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:03 AM on July 28, 2011

Years ago I had a land line for DSL, and used that number when various types of registrations (web forms, etc) required a phone number. I still use that phone number in the grocery store check-out because there is a discount program attached to it at all the major local chains, and also use it when I register for things, out of habit. Somebody, somewhere is getting marketing phone calls and rewards program points as a result of this.
posted by univac at 11:10 AM on July 28, 2011

We have received calls on our home phone for someone for the past 4.5 years, with varying frequency. We first thought that he had the number before we did, and it was just old contact information, but we still get calls from bill collectors, government agencies, etc. for him, some of which have told us that he gave them the number recently. Either way, we just tell them that we've had the number for a few years, we don't know him, and we'd like them to make a note that this is not his number, and the calls have eventually tapered off to once or twice a year.
posted by bedhead at 11:14 AM on July 28, 2011

My grandmother (who lives alone) received calls for a guy named Chris for years and years. She noticed at some point that the calls tended to increase around the time of school vacations. One day a woman called and asked for Chris.

"Oh, Chris," my grandmother said. "Hasn't he about graduated by now?"

"I know!" the woman said. "He's taking forever to get through school!"

The proceeded to chat for ten minutes or so about Chris and his life and his school career and his prospects before my grandmother finally explained that the caller had the wrong number.
posted by newrambler at 11:35 AM on July 28, 2011 [9 favorites]

Which is just to echo everyone else, really: I wouldn't worry.
posted by newrambler at 11:36 AM on July 28, 2011

I used to have this problem: I'd get 2-4 messages left every week. (It was annoying, mainly because he kept getting invited out to all these great dinners and shows and stuff, while I was stuck at home. ;) ) Anyhow, finally somebody actually left their own phone number --- all anybody else'd left was 'call me, you have my number!' --- so I called and asked where she'd gotten my phone number: turned out their homeowner's association transposed two digits in his number. I haven't gotten one call for him since.

Anyway: try leaving an outgoing voicemail greeting that states "this is NOT facebook-dude's number, he will not receive any messages left here."
posted by easily confused at 12:05 PM on July 28, 2011

I would be worried about identify theft. I'd check out my credit report to be safe. Other than that, not much else you can do.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:10 PM on July 28, 2011

My parents had a number that was used--like apparently put on checks, back when people used them--by someone involved in unemployment fraud (we think). The state employment commission called a bunch and harassed my mother, but other than the state not initially accepting "that person is not at this number", we never had a problem. The same number also got a bunch of calls for what we suspected was a low-level drug dealer. They finally threatened to come shoot my dad if he didn't put Roy on the phone, my dad said he'd meet them at the door with a shotgun, and that was the end of that.

In neither case did anything other than unpleasant phone calls and voice mails accrue, even with the dude who threatened to shoot my father. I would not worry except possibly about identity theft.
posted by immlass at 12:13 PM on July 28, 2011

I don't think you need to do anything besides tell them that they have the wrong number.

Could be worse. My childhood family phone number was similar to a local towing company with dubious ethics, so we got furious people calling at all hours of the day.
posted by vanitas at 12:30 PM on July 28, 2011

I get calls for the previous owner of the pre-paid cell that I have. Most of the time they are in Spanish, so I don't know what they are saying.

This. T-Mobile advertises their rates to Mexico, so I guess it shouldn't have surprised me much. Some of them are Spanish, some of them are English, all for the same guy. I think the English calls are mostly bill collectors.

Of course, with my old phone number (non-prepaid AT&T cell phone) I got a wrong number from a local county police department once. The first time it went to voice mail and sounded almost threatening (saying they would call back in 10 minutes and something along the lines of "you better answer") but once I explained, slowly and calmly, that I had no relation to the person they were trying to reach, I think it dawned on them that they shouldn't be giving out any more information by pursuing the matter and I didn't hear from them again.
posted by dagnyscott at 1:22 PM on July 28, 2011

My parents used to get calls and messages quite frequently for someone called David. Eventually, we changed the answering machine message to "If you're calling for David, you've got the wrong number. If you're calling for equivocator's family, please leave us a message." We stopped getting calls. I have done something similar with when I got calls for the old owner of a new cell number. It always works.
posted by equivocator at 6:35 PM on July 28, 2011

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