Cell phone mystery/conundrum
August 22, 2011 9:23 AM   Subscribe

My cell phone display has gone black, for no reason I can see, and now I'm receiving a mysterious new spate of text messages-- which I can't read or identify the sender of. Help?

I woke up a couple of days ago to find that I'd slept on my cell phone. In a development that may or may not be related, the display does not work at all now-- the keys are backlit and the phone is still functioning, but the screen itself is always black.

In another development that may or may not be related, I've received a very unusual number and frequency of texts since then, and I've contacted everyone I can think of who might be texting me, and, well, they're not.

This whole thing smells really fishy, and it's driving me nucking futs. I almost never send or (normally) receive texts.

I would really like to know what the hell is going on with my phone, rather than being stuck with my speculations. My hope is that this is a specific thing, a known issue, and you, the hivemind, will recognize it where google could not.

Failing that, I'd like to know how to retrieve and read those texts-- preferably in a way that doesn't cost my broke ass much.

Details-- it's a Samsung-model Verizon phone, still covered under warranty. I share a cell plan with my grandparents, and if I really can't hack my way around this, I'll replace the damn thing after a lot of red tape and a couple weeks' wait.

It does not have a SIM card. I tried signing up for Verizon's online service (which stores a backup of your text messages) and they sent me a text with which to confirm my account. *Sigh.* I may be able to work around that by turning my cell phone off for 24 hours, signing up for the service again, and then trying to talk my grandparents through finding a confirmation code Verizon sends them in the mail. Again, looking for alternatives here.

I went in to a Verizon location. The employee I spoke to was unable to offer any solutions other than the replacement option, or any explanation of what happened to my phone. This was before the strike ended-- another thing that may or may not be related.

I signed up for Google Voice and GVMax-- unless I'm missing something, the free edition of Voice no longer offers SMS-to-email forwarding and, by extension, GVMax can't anymore either. My phone is not, as far as I know, 3G-enabled.

I've also tried opening and forwarding the text blind. No luck there.

I don't have a credit card. I have a tiny bit of money in my PayPal, and a TracFone with plenty of minutes.

I'm normally not this much of a curmudgeon, I swear.
I'm a little terrified because I sent an embarrassing text message to a friend at 4 in the morning the night before all this happened. Her phone doesn't actually receive texts, but my big fear is that in my blurry state I selected the wrong contact and opened some horrifying social can of worms.

Tell me something I don't know?
posted by dee lee to Technology (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A part of me suspects that the Verizon guy may have tried this (and I'd be really surprised if he didn't), but just in case he didn't -- I've been able to dislodge a couple of my own cell phone gremlins by simply taking the battery out, waiting a minute, and putting it back in again and turning my phone back on. The data all stays intact, but whatever bizarre thing was going on with my phone always seems to stop, for reasons which I am unable to ascertain. (Except one time, when I took out the battery and noticed that a teeny screw had dislodged from somewhere and was rattling around in the battery cavity -- I took out the screw, couldn't figure out where it went, and just tried putting the battery back in and hoping, and it fired right back up and worked perfectly.)

Again, if the Verizon guy did this, never mind, but if he didn't...try that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:27 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

And as for the weird texts, that may be an unrelated problem -- can you repeat what some of them say? It could either be spam texts, or someone with a wrong number or something. It could be unrelated.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:28 AM on August 22, 2011

I can't, because I can't read them. I can't see who they're from. The display on my cell phone is not working, period. I can't even tell you what time it is.
posted by dee lee at 9:38 AM on August 22, 2011

Have you checked your online account information? At least on AT&T - you can see the to/from #s for text messages. You won't be able to see the actual message, but you can, if Verizon does this, see where the text messages are coming from.
posted by nightwood at 9:56 AM on August 22, 2011

Unfortunately, as I said above, I did try signing up for their online service, but they text the login password. I've tried to get an audio message instead to no avail.
posted by dee lee at 10:13 AM on August 22, 2011

You have two separate issues.

1. Your phone's display or backlight is dead.

2. You're receiving an unusual amount of text messages.

Since your phone is under warranty solve problem 1 by having them replace or repair your phone's display. This is a prerequisite to further diagnosis of Issue 2.
posted by odinsdream at 10:37 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can a billing rep (in-store or over the phone) just look at your account and see how many texts you've received? It could be that what you think are text messages are actually just your phone trying to tell you it's sick.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:49 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Let me get this straight: you signed up for Google Voice after the problem occurred? Or before?

Google Voice *does* still forward text messages to your phone. If you signed up for GV after the problem, then perhaps those messages are a result of that, even part of the verification process.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:45 PM on August 22, 2011

Forwarding the messages blind sounds like a good idea, but did you just try to go through the menus from memory? What if you took your grandfather's phone and your phone side by side and hit the same buttons on each, so you could be sure you'd opened the correct menus? Or a same-model phone from the Verizon store?

If I learned my younger brother's phone display had gone black, I would totally start sending him periodic text messages just to fuck with him. Any candidates?
posted by foursentences at 1:53 PM on August 22, 2011

Also -- when my phone has all the text messages it can hold, and someone sends me a 201st text, my phone displays a text-like message at random intervals every 10-600 minutes telling me my phone is full. Could this be happening?
posted by foursentences at 1:54 PM on August 22, 2011

I replaced the phone. Since then, I received one two-day old text, and the rest have stopped. I also tried texting my own number just before replacement and received an error message. It seems very likely that the alerts I was hearing were A) my phone telling me it was broken somehow and/or B) my phone telling me my SMS storage was full.

Thanks for the logic, MeFites.
posted by dee lee at 10:17 AM on August 23, 2011

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