What the heck is going on?
February 25, 2014 10:24 AM   Subscribe

I've gotten a pair of phone calls that seem too weird to be unrelated when they're so close together but I can't make head or tails about what it could mean.

Yesterday evening when I was coming home from work I got a collect call from the Seneca County Jail (Ohio). Unfortunately our dog Fishstick was barking so much and so loudly that I couldn't hear who it was from or any of the menu options. I tried hitting a button but apparently it was the deny button and that was it. At the time I assumed it was just a wrong number as I don't know anyone in Seneca county, at least no one who would think to call me in an emergency.

This afternoon I received a call from the Cleveland police asking for someone named Sara. Apparently there was an accident and one of the people involved gave my cell phone number out as their contact number. They didn't ask anything about me once they confirmed the number they called was the one given to them and it wasn't who they were looking for nor did I know the person.

Cleveland isn't in Seneca County but it is within a day's driving distance. I live in Toledo which is about as close.

Is this just a really bizarre set of coincidences or should I begin worrying about my identity being stolen or something like that?
posted by charred husk to Law & Government (10 answers total)
I vote weird coincidence.
posted by beagle at 10:28 AM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Either a weird coincidence, or someone transposed some numbers on a cell phone OR someone misread some numbers for a cell phone.

It takes three to make a pattern. So if it happens a third time, definitely try to figure out what's going on. But for now? Just a mildly strange experience.
posted by zizzle at 10:31 AM on February 25, 2014

I vote that a frazzled person gave the wrong area code (or none at all where a non-local one was needed).
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:31 AM on February 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've had the calls from jail before, check out http://www.verizon.com/pages/securityalerts/:
"*72 Prison Scam. How it works: You receive a call from an operator saying there is an inmate from a correctional facility who needs you to accept a collect call and the associated charges. Once you accept the call, the caller convinces you to hang up your phone, dial in *72 and another phone number. * 72 is the code used to forward your incoming calls to another number, if you have call forwarding service or if it's available on a per-use basis in your local exchange. If you do this, the inmate will then make additional collect calls to your number, but the calls will be forwarded to someone the inmate knows at the number where you forwarded the calls. That person accepts the charges, but they are billed to you. Often you don't realize this has happened until you notice your phone not ringing or you receive your bill with numerous unexpected charges."

I vote that the first call had nothing to do with the second call. Like zizzle, I would not worry about the calls unless you continue to get strange ones.
posted by bessiemae at 10:38 AM on February 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

Someone involved in a crime or legal proceeding gave your phone number instead of their own, in one of a number of different scenarios. From most to least likely:

1) They unintentionally wrote down the wrong number.
2) They intentionally wrote down a wrong number, and it's just dumb luck it was yours.
3) They intentionally gave your number.

Don't worry about it, unless the calls continue.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:39 AM on February 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

i wouldn't take a collect call from the jail under any circumstances. fishstick was telling you to do the right thing in dogspeak, and you did, so give him some pettins.
posted by bruce at 10:45 AM on February 25, 2014 [21 favorites]

I think it's one of the following:

- The two calls are related. Your current number was at one time the arrestee's emergency contact number and they are unaware that 'Sara' has changed her number.

- The two calls are related but the area code was wrong or omitted in both instances.

- The arrestee gave out a random/fake number in both instances for some reason. (Does your number spell something? Is your number really easy to remember along the lines of "555-1234"?).

- The arrestee is someone from your past who holds a grudge against you for some reason. Giving out your number for things like this is just one of the ways this person "evens the score".

- The calls are totally unrelated. It's just a coincidence that your number was mistaken for another number two days in a row.

IMO I don't think identity thieves would bother using the target's phone number as it's counterintuitive. Doing such would only alert the other party to what's going on that much more quickly.
posted by marimeko at 11:40 AM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

There used to be a scam some prisoners ran where they made collect calls to people, using unscrupulous long distance providers in the Caribbean (or Ukraine, or...) where the long distance rate was preposterously high. The prisoner got a kickback from the phone company for it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:01 PM on February 25, 2014

How long have you had the number? Numbers are recycled because there is a limited amount of phone numbers. The calls could be for your number but for the person that previously held your number. Although numbers are not reused for, at least, a year, it could be that you are receiving calls for the previous owner. This as happened to me in the past. Even after a year of having the number. I, once, had to send a copy of a phone bill to a collection agency to prove the number wasn't for the person they were trying to collect from.
posted by BostonCannuck at 12:13 PM on February 25, 2014

Never take a call from prison unless a loved one is in prison.

Never ever take an unsolicited call from the police. It may sound paranoid, but it has been covered here before. Absolutely nothing good can come from talking to them, even if you have done nothing wrong.

At any rate, this does sound like an odd coincidence.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:51 PM on February 25, 2014

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