What is the deal with this phantom "missed call"?
July 18, 2013 11:09 AM   Subscribe

I missed a call this morning, and the number showed up in my missed calls. I called it back, and the guy on the other end was really angry and insisted he hadn't used his phone since the 12th.

The whole thing was very odd; I would be inclined to think it was a glitch but the way this guy instantly flew off the handle and called me an asshole for calling his number back gives me pause. What's the story here? Is this a thing that happens, some strange number appears as a missed call randomly when no call was made? It's an iPhone if that helps anything from a technical perspective.
posted by Hoopo to Technology (25 answers total)
How much time elapsed between you missing the call and you calling him back?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:10 AM on July 18, 2013

Man, we can't tell you what's going on. But anyone who flies off the handle like that is surely 1) cuckoo, and 2) more likely to actually have called you than some technical glitch.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:13 AM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Caller ID can be faked, it's possible that someone is targeting this guy for harassment by calling many people w/ his faked caller id.

That would explain him getting so angry right off the bat.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:13 AM on July 18, 2013 [12 favorites]

-it is possible to spoof phone numbers
-he may have misdialed thinking he was calling someone else and just not realized he called you
-I wouldn't put too much stock in someone whose immediate response to something so innocent as this is crazyanger
posted by phunniemee at 11:14 AM on July 18, 2013

The bad news: it's not a mystery you are going to solve. Nobody has a way to know whether this guy was lying or not. Getting phone company records is going to be hard. It's possible that somebody else was caller-ID spoofing that guy's number, or that he fat-fingered it, or he's disturbed, or just an asshole, or almost anything else.

The good news: You've got a pretty good story that might be fun to embellish a bit.
posted by gauche at 11:14 AM on July 18, 2013

Response by poster: How much time elapsed between you missing the call and you calling him back?

It was about 20 minutes, and I gather we're on the same carrier because he shouted "SO CALL [carrier name]" when I told him I just hit a single button to call back and didn't actually mis-dial anything. This was because he previously said something to the effect of "I DON'T FUCKIN KNOW YOU, WHY WOULD I CALL YOU? YOU OBVIOUSLY DIALED THE WRONG NUMBER ASSHOLE, I HAVEN'T CALLED ANYONE SINCE THE 12TH". Lots of good abuse hurled at me for saying I missed a call from his number, and who keeps track of their last call like that, just to have the info on hand for when you get a random wrong number?

That's what's so weird to me....assuming this was some technical glitch, who reacts to a wrong number like that?
posted by Hoopo at 11:26 AM on July 18, 2013

I have had a woman tell me I'm lying when, after a few weeks of being woken up to the screech of a fax on my cell phone, I finally *69ed her and asked her to fix her number. She informed me that she was faxing her doctor in NY, who apparently had a 613 (Ontario) area code.

...people are crazy, especially when you tell them they screwed up.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:27 AM on July 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

Misdial? Spoof? Could be lots of things for sure. But if someone calls me -- and does not leave a message -- I don't call back, especially if I don't recognize the number. I figure it was an error and if it was someone who wanted me they could leave a message or contact me another way.
posted by Lescha at 11:30 AM on July 18, 2013 [9 favorites]

I had an elderly woman call me several times over the course of a few months thinking I was her granddaughter "Chelsea" and why didn't I ever call her anymore she just loves me so much and the whole family is worried about me.

After the fourth or fifth instance of "I'm really sorry, but you have the wrong number, I'm not your granddaughter and my name isn't Chelsea" where she insisted I was and kept saying "Chelsea, you're breaking my heart!" I ended up just calling Verizon to block her phone number.

There is a whole range of reasons why people don't notice they've dialed the wrong number.

who reacts to a wrong number like that?

Crazy people who are also assholes.
posted by phunniemee at 11:32 AM on July 18, 2013 [15 favorites]

For a while, we've been getting skip tracer calls for someone my husband roomed with twenty years ago. Most of the time, I just say "She has never lived at this number -- I haven't seen her in seventeen years," and they apologize and go on their way. But there was a period of about ten days when I was getting calls for her 5, 10, 15 times a day, and you better believe I finally got to the point where I was hollering and swearing.

If someone is spoofing this guy's caller ID to the point where he's getting calls like yours once or twice an hour (or more), his anger isn't unwarranted. Well, it's unwarranted, but it's also understandable.
posted by KathrynT at 11:39 AM on July 18, 2013 [7 favorites]

I would keep his phone number handy in case the police need it for investigative purposes.
posted by JJ86 at 11:45 AM on July 18, 2013

Response by poster: That actually makes a lot of sense KathrynT--he did go off on a bit of a tirade about how I must owe people money, which was kind of a head scratcher
posted by Hoopo at 11:46 AM on July 18, 2013

I vote the guy is a few cards short of a full deck. I mean, who knows the exact day when they used their phone and brings that into conversation? It's possible someone spoofed his phone, of course. But the speed with which he angered and what he said says to me that he's working to his own internal logic and the most likely explanation is he misdialled you. By way of example, I leave you with this gem from Four Weddings and a Funeral:

Charles: How do you do, my name is Charles.
Old man: Don't be ridiculous, Charles died 20 years ago!
Charles: Must be a different Charles, I think.
Old man: Are you telling me I don't know my own brother!
Charles: No, no.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:51 AM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

My current cell phone number (which I've had for 13 years now), used to be that of a real estate agency. But then more area codes got added, and the real estate agency adopted the new area code.

But the people, often elderly, who bought their house some 30+ years ago? Are still going to have the original paperwork, and aren't going to realize that what used to be (xxx) 555-1212 has changed to (yyy) 555-1212.

So, after a zillion people asking for 'Daphne' and hanging up when I told them they had the wrong number, I finally asked one of them who Daphne was. Then, a Google search of "Daphne + (xxx) 555-1212" turned up the current number, and Daphne and I had a good chat when I called her about it.

Now, I get a lot less calls for Daphne. I'm hoping that she just mailed all of her clients a letter informing them of the number change.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:53 AM on July 18, 2013

It was about 20 minutes

Ah okay. I was thinking maybe someone else had used his phone if there'd been a long interim.

This really could be any one of a lot of things. Someone spoofing his number? Who knows. I don't think there's really a way to find out what happened but it sounds like either he's crazy or at the end of his tether for reasons we cannot know and should not call him to find out.

I wouldn't rule out a glitch but I'd think a phantom call is less likely than the other guy just being kind of nuts in whatever way.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:05 PM on July 18, 2013

Shady companies autodialing numbers routinely spoof their caller id numbers. If they used his number to call a bunch of people he'd get a ton of callbacks and be rightly annoyed.
posted by TheAdamist at 12:08 PM on July 18, 2013

For a while, my husband had his number show up on other people's recent call lists, when he'd never called them at all, and he'd owned the number for several years. Plenty of people called him back, wanting to know why he called them, and got belligerent with him when he said he hadn't. One persistent woman told him, the 3rd or 4th time she called the number back, that he needed to stop calling her because her boyfriend was getting angry at her. My husband finally snapped and told her that she was better off without her boyfriend if he didn't trust her, then hung up. (At least she didn't call back again!)

We assume it was a telemarketer or robocaller that was spoofing his number, since those never leave messages. The call-backs eventually stopped.

So keep in mind that this person has probably been getting other calls from other people with varying degrees of politeness and rudeness, and has probably had it up to here with it.
posted by telophase at 12:10 PM on July 18, 2013

There's a prank my father once played on someone, in which he had all of his friends call a particular house throughout the day and ask for "Joe," when in fact no Joe lived at that house. When the person said, "there's no Joe here" the caller would say, "well, tell him Rob called," or "tell him John called" or whatever. By the early evening, the person receiving all of these apparent wrong numbers was thoroughly irate and irritable about the whole business, and would start swearing at the callers who kept calling and asking for Joe.

So finally my father called, and said, "Hi, this is Joe. Any messages for me?"

It's irritating to get a bunch of phone calls from people who don't want to talk to you. Don't take it personally, though, because in any case you didn't do anything wrong.
posted by gauche at 12:15 PM on July 18, 2013

It could be a telemarketer or bot spoofing their caller ID. In that case, you're unlikely to be the first caller.

It could be someone with the wrong area code (I've done this several times!)

It could be someone who isn't quite all there.

It sounds like (1) and (3), in which case their reaction is fairly unsuprising.
posted by Ashlyth at 12:23 PM on July 18, 2013

You know, I have on occasion gotten random phone calls from unknown people who SWEAR I have just called them/their boyfriend/ whoever, and act like total obnoxious jerks about it (how DARE I call them and not admit it???). But, you know, I didn't call them. Sometimes wires get crossed and weird stuff happens with cell phones. I'm not saying you were rude to the person you called, but seriously, just drop it. If someone calls and doesn't leave a message, assume it was a mistake and forget about it. If if becomes a recurrent problem, by all means block the number or get your phone company involved.
posted by Jemstar at 12:34 PM on July 18, 2013

Google numbers that call you. Just type it in. It will let you know WTF is going on, especially if it's phone spam.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:52 PM on July 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

A couple of days after I moved into my current home, which entailed getting a new landline number, I got a phone call from a guy who said I had called his cell phone and asking what the call was about. I told him I had not called his cell phone, and, in fact, I had not called anyone ever on that line because it was a brand new line (which was a tiny bit of a lie, the week before, I called my own cell phone just to make sure the line was working).

A few minutes later, he called me again, saying apparently I had called his cell phone again. Needless to say, having not called him the first time, I certainly hadn't called him the second time, but he didn't believe that and was getting right pissed off about it, which I thought was pretty fucking rude, considering as far as I was concerned, he was calling me out of the blue. I was rude to him, too, but not before he was rude to me, in my opinion. Still, I'm sure to outside observers, those conversations would have seemed like two crazy assholes being rude to each other.

The moral of this story is: weird shit happens with phones sometimes.

No, wait, that was the premise of this story. The moral of the story is: in any situation, it's always a good idea to strive to be the lesser asshole.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:52 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I got a really good call back when I first got my new phone number.

Me: "Hello?"
Caller: "Hello, who is this?"
Me: "You called me."
Caller: ". . . Who IS this????"
Me: ". . . You called me."
Caller: "Yeah, well stop calling my husband!!!" *click*

100% certain I never called her husband. Some people are weird. Haven't heard from her since. Also now I have a great story about what a homewrecker I am, so that's fun!
posted by chainsofreedom at 3:34 PM on July 18, 2013

Does your phone have voicemail? My philosophy with missed calls from numbers I don't recognize is that it must not have been very important if they didn't leave a message.
posted by Aleyn at 5:35 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Entirely possible he pocket-dialled you without realising.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:57 AM on February 6, 2014

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