Someone gave my name and phone number to creep online. What now?
August 7, 2012 1:46 AM   Subscribe

Someone gave out my name and phone number in a potentially creepy chatroom. What do should I do to protect myself?

This afternoon I received a call from a blocked number on my cell phone. It was man I did not recognize. When I answered he ask if I was Ommcc (he used my real first name) from x city (a nearby suburb connected to Ommcc's actually city). The area code of my cell phone is associated with the location he mentioned so he could have gotten the city from looking up the area code. But how he knew my name was concerning.

I asked who he was and he told me we had been chatting earlier online in a chatroom. At this point my confusion lead him to realize I am not the Ommcc he was trying to reach. He told me that he must have the wrong number. However he did not hang up and I again asked him who he was and what chatroom he got my number. He did not tell me his name and simply said the chatroom was for "friends" (i specifically asked if the chatroom was for any community, or hobbyists). After that he apologized for calling and hung up.

It does not seem likely that this person got a randomly wrong number that happened to be mine looking from someone by the same name.

None of my other accounts appear (email, bank or otherwise) to have been tampered with. And it is pretty easy to get the name associated with phone number. So can I just write this off or should I be concerned? If I get more of these calls in the next few days I will change my number and let the police know but based on just this one call how concerned should I be and what should I do?

I am a man and my name while not unique or unusual is not extremely common (ie John, Mike, Steve).
posted by Ommcc to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
It's not clear to me that you have found the chatroom in question. If you can't, then you should question if that is the source of this person getting the number. I.e. where else could your number be online (FB, Linkedin etc) to people within your circle. Obviously you'll be wondering if a friend or associate is handing out your number maliciously, but it is worth you doing your due diligence first.

If you can find your number online, the first step should be to get it removed by contacting whoever owns or admins the site.

As you've said, then wait and see if this is a one off or a pattern. If it becomes a pattern then yes, you need to take steps including monitoring other parts of your identity for tampering, contacting the police and changing your number.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:14 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Someone gave out my name and phone number in a potentially creepy chatroom.

But your narrative tells us you were never able to determine what the chatroom is, so it's only potentially creepy to the degree any chatroom is potentially creepy, unless there's something you're not telling us. Additionally, nothing makes it clear this wasn't just a mis-dialled number, so it seems a little premature to panic.

Even if you do get more calls, I'm not sure I'd change the number. At one point someone listed my name and number on an escort website, which meant I got a lot of late night calls from gentlemen looking for services that I, as a web designer, do not offer. Having a sense of humor helped. Turning the phone off for a few days resolved the problem completely. Numbers posted on X tend to be very temporal.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:26 AM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hmm, I don't know that you should assume someone's giving out these details in a chatroom - the information you received in the call really isn't enough for that, barring a significantly bitter and messed up ex-partner you might have or something.

Personally, I would take no further action besides usual safety precautions of locking the door, not letting strangers in etc. What until (or if) you get more calls of a similar nature. Then try to find the chat room, report to police, change your phone number, and for peace of mind, maybe crash at a friend's house for a few days - but I wouldn't be doing that off one phone call.

Might not have been a chat room, might not have been creepy, might very well be a one off.
posted by smoke at 4:37 AM on August 7, 2012

There was a time when everybody's phone number and address was easily available in a big book that was delivered right to your door for free. And the book did not scroll off the front page of the chat within hours. So even if somebody did give out the number, which quite frankly is probably unlikely, it's not like your phone number and general location are particularly secure information.
posted by COD at 5:40 AM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

You got one weird phone call? Blow it off.

If you start getting tons of calls, at all hours of the day and night, that's when you start to worry.

If you get more calls, then look into changing your number. If not, you worried over nothing.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:16 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Something very similar happened to a friend of mine recently. Turned out the guy transposed 2 numbers, which she found when she located the site in question. If you haven't gotten more than one call, I'd say a wrong number with the coincidence of the same first name is a very strong possibility.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 8:29 AM on August 7, 2012

Even if the caller did get your number through digital media, he may have used "chatroom" as shorthand for something else, too -- a text, one-on-one chat, a craislist ad, a post on metafilter, etc. Lot's of people simplify technical terms in conversation -- especially if they don't know how tech-savvy the person they're speaking with might be.

Forgive me for my ignorance, but I am confused about why you might report this to the police. I'm pretty sure it is not illegal to post phone numbers online, even in a "creepy chat room" -- and you have no real reason to think there was anything creepy going on here.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:36 PM on August 7, 2012

It sounds like someone is calling all the Ommccs in the phonebook (or all the Ommccs they found on Google) looking for one particular Ommcc. You are not that one, so they're very unlikely to call you again. Since your name isn't so common, they probably thought they would get the right Ommcc on the first try; the rest of the weird conversation you had can be explained by that kind of confusion.

I wouldn't worry unless you receive another call.
posted by snorkmaiden at 1:01 PM on August 7, 2012

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