"Wakey, Wakey! This is your wake up call!" What just happened?
September 13, 2017 2:37 AM   Subscribe

At 11:10 p.m. the land line sitting next to my desktop rings. I answer it. Impossibly cheerful voice says, "Wakey, wakey! This is your scheduled wake up call!" I hang up. Phone rings again. Same routine. Third time I engage in brief conversation, then hang up and unplug the phone. What just happened? And should I have responded differently?

Rough approximation of event. At first I was far more amused than irritated. 11:00 at night? The third time it rang I wanted it to stop, so I said, "What is this?"

V: If you'd like to talk to a representative, press 1."
M: (presses 1)
V: If you'd like a male representative press 1, a female representative press 2 ---
M (hangs up)
Phone immediately rings again.
M (picks up phone, presses 1 for "representative" and 2 for "female.")
V: You have reached the transgender representative.
M: (laughing) What is this?
V: What do you mean? This is your Wakey Wakey wake up call service.
M: Look, I don't know... (sudden thought) This is a bot, isn't it? And a not very well programmed
one ..."
V: (very irritated voice) I am not a bot, you stupid woman!"
M: Goodbye.
V: (now very sweet) Oh, Nancy, what would it take to make you believe I'm real...
M: So now you know my name? I still think you a bot. (Put phone down, with line open. Mr K comes in later and unplugs phone.)

I have two questions.

1) What was this? I can't imagine any way this could lead to any kind of monetization (always my first expectation). Is it A Thing, trying to get recordings of amusing arguments to post somewhere? A personal prank, maybe, (of the "Do you have Prince Albert in a can? variety) especially since they used my name? But I'm really old -- I remember the Prince Albert joke, that's how old I am. I find it hard to imagine someone taking time and effort to rag on me at 11:00 at night for fun. And calling the land line, since 99.5% of the time we just let it ring. I only picked it up because it was late and people were sleeping and it was right next to my hand.

2) Never mind that we have a land line. We just do. Is there any reason that I shouldn't just put the handset down and leave the line open? I've always thought of a land line as completely separate from the rest of the household devices and appliances, but I may be way out of date here.

NOTE: I did realize that it's incredibly satisfying to respond to a phone or text message "Oh, you're just a bot." If it is a bot, it shows are smart you are, and if it's not a bot, it irritates the person bothering you no end.
posted by kestralwing to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
A stranger might have accidentally used your number to sign up for this service. Interesting problem!
posted by machinecraig at 2:47 AM on September 13, 2017

Best answer: The stranger would have to mistakenly hit on the same name as well. Not very likely. Using your name seems pretty damn creepy to me, and I'd be tempted to blast a whistle down the line the next time it happened. Or just remain silent and see if they keep talking - they might reveal something that gives clues.
posted by quinndexter at 2:55 AM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I don't know what this is, but it's probably someone being stupid.

Phone scams that lead to monetization usually involve getting someone to press a sequence of keys, and/or leaving the line open after they hang up or after a series of tones have sounded on the answering machine.

If it happens again, do not press any keys. Unplug the phone and wait for however long the call clearing timeout is with your landline provider (an explanation is here).

Next there's the question of how the caller knew your name. Is your landline number listed? Is it under the name Nancy? Is it under Mr. Kestral's name? Has anything been published about Mr. Kestral that reveals what town he lives in and that your name is Nancy?

The content of the call suggests prank, but the use of a menu suggests scam.
posted by tel3path at 3:10 AM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd guess that, as a prank, someone signed you up for one of those services where an actual person gives you a wake up call. The person knows you so they used your name and number for the sign up and when the service called the caller had the right information.
posted by unreasonable at 4:23 AM on September 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

There have been reports of fake calls aimed at getting the householder to answer “yes” to a question, with the plan to transplant that to another soundbite later to make it appear that she said yes to some scammy offer or another. One in our area involves a supposed solicitation for cleaning septic tanks. “Is your home served by a septic tank system?"

But this doesn’t sound like that one. Or if it is, the plan is a bit baffling.
posted by yclipse at 4:28 AM on September 13, 2017

I'd make a facebook post asking who's responsible for the prank.
posted by bunderful at 5:01 AM on September 13, 2017

I suggest you email feedback@wakie.com, describe briefly what happened and ask them if your phone number is erroneously registered to their service.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 5:04 AM on September 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

If a company is taking orders for "wakeup" calls without confirming that the people who own the number consent to the calls, they might be breaking the law. Obviously people would use it for pranks. I'd read the steps in this Guardian article which has suggestions including reporting them to the ICO.
posted by soelo at 7:17 AM on September 13, 2017

Best answer: It doesn't sound like it's the wakie app based on this description.

But if you search for wake up call free or something, there are tons of sites that'll do this sort of thing, and it doesn't look like they all require much if any verification.

Or it could be a generic soundboard site (search soundboard calls), where someone you know is controlling the soundboard. I too am old but I've had that done to me. It does sound like someone was making some decisions there that seem to go beyond what fully automated voice response is usually capable of. Lots of the bot calls you get are like that.

I'm assuming that you don't have Caller ID since you don't mention that, which kind of limits what you can do. If it happens again, you could try last call return if it's available on your line. In the US, it's usually *69.

NOTE: I did realize that it's incredibly satisfying to respond to a phone or text message "Oh, you're just a bot." If it is a bot, it shows are smart you are, and if it's not a bot, it irritates the person bothering you no end.

I asked someone if she was a bot once just because her speaking voice was a little too suave. It was a totally legitimate call that just happened to come in the middle of a flurry of bot calls. I guess she's not familiar with bot calls, though, so when I tried to explain, it just made it sound like I had some delusion about robots persecuting me or something. She's nervous around me now. She's a really nice lady and I feel bad about that.
posted by ernielundquist at 7:23 AM on September 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: FURTHER UPDATE: Mr. K just remembered that our other land line phone keeps a record of numbers that have recently called us (we really don't use these phones anymore). Two different numbers were listed, one from Paulsbo, WA and one from where I live, Bellingham WA. One came in at 11:08 p.m. and the local one came in at 11:11. When I dialed the numbers, I got the "You have reached a number that is no longer in service. If you think you reached this message in error, etc."

This seems to eliminate the possibility of a call through the Wakey Wakey service. I just can't imagine who or why someone would prank me, use a phone we almost never answer, and know my first name. I'm baffled.

Maybe it's time to get rid of the land line?
posted by kestralwing at 10:07 AM on September 13, 2017

Have you tried Googling the numbers to see if others have had similar calls from them?
posted by Perodicticus potto at 10:50 AM on September 13, 2017

I think this may be a classic example of a prank phone call. When I was a kid this was considered a fun and mischievous activity, and there wasn't any rampant suspicion of hacking or phreaking or anything monetary or scammy; this was in the Dark Ages of the late 70s/early 80s. We would pick a random stranger from the phone book and call them to ask them things like "is your refrigerator running?" "Yes." "Better go catch it. HAHAHAHAH!" It was considered annoying yet innocent kid stuff back then. It sounds like someone has brought back prank calling in an updated fashion. It can be considered a form of trolling for lulz. Meaner than before, but essentially harmless.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 11:49 AM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Wow that is really creepy. If it continues: we have our ringer turned all the way down on our landline, so we never have to deal with incoming spam calls.
posted by egeanin at 12:40 PM on September 13, 2017

Best answer: I think I found it:

Talk O Clock

The website goes to a law firm or something, and it's calling from spoofed numbers, but it lets you request a gender, it says they'll use a bot if a live person isn't available, and a few other things that make it look like this is it.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:17 PM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It may be a prank or a mistake, but it's outrageous to call a woman alone late at night, using her name, not identifying yourself. In fact (no lawyer here) it certainly sounds illegal.

If it happens again I'd record one and call the cops. They can find out where those 'not in service' calls came from.

btw, we have a landline we never use and don't answer -- and prolly always will have it. 1) it costs virtually nothing. 2) it's our backup for big power outage when cells don't work. 3) if Ms LK or I accidentally leave our cell turned off, in an emergency the other can get us to answer the cell via via a specific pattern of calls on the land line.

Good luck. Probably benign but infuriating.

Just saw previous comment. Looks right to me.
posted by LonnieK at 1:17 PM on September 13, 2017

Oh, wait. It all makes perfect sense now. The stuff about the wake up call service is hidden in the contacts section of the fake law firm site.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:22 PM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I lived in Bellingham for about six years and my overwhelming impression of the place is that it's chock full of bored college students and bored, underemployed graduates. I highly doubt this is anything more than a prank call, especially if you work around any young people who can look up your name on whitepages.com or the like.
posted by seiryuu at 3:56 PM on September 13, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers helping me to think this through. I'm pretty sure it is some kind of prank call, almost certainly having selected me randomly.

However, I did get spooked, and thinking it over I believe I was right. I was starting to get into an exchange with the person, actually laughing, until he used my name. Then I just put the phone down and walked away. Because if he knows my name there's a good chance he knows my address, and he's probably a continent away but maybe not. I do not want to draw attention to myself or irritate someone who would call at 11:00 p.m. and cry out "Wakey, wakey!"
posted by kestralwing at 7:59 PM on September 13, 2017

Best answer: I'd be tempted to blast a whistle down the line the next time it happened.

Of course this prank was creepy, but PLEASE don't blast whistles into the phone when you get calls from living people doing surveys and other sorts of phone-based work. My senior-aged relative works in a phone room, as many seniors do. She had this done to her and sustained hearing damage as a result. It borders on violence and, honestly, should be reported to police when it happens.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 11:42 PM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

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