caller ID weirdness
March 29, 2019 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Weird caller ID situation on my phone - can anyone help me figure out what's going on? Deets inside.

I frequently get calls on my cell phone that show up on caller ID as "Restricted." I assumed for a long time that these were simply robocalls. I also get multiple robocalls a day from other random numbers that show up intact in my caller ID.

Today here is what happened:

-At 3pm, I received a called that showed up as "Restricted" in caller ID. I rejected the call.

-Five minutes ago, I looked at my call log to try to find the number of a new client I was speaking to yesterday. The "Restricted" call from 3pm was listed in my call log, but instead of showing up as "Restricted" it shows the full name of someone I know (but no phone number appears, so I cannot call them back).

-When I select this name from the call log, a screen opens up showing that this person has called me several times a day, every day, over the past three weeks. However, this person's name has never once shown on the caller ID when the call comes in. This person is not someone who I have ever talked to on the phone, so even the fact of them calling me is strange.

What could be causing this? Is it as simple as this person is trying to reach me but doesn't want me to know they are calling so they are blocking caller ID when they dial?

If so, would it be possible that this person is doing this via a land line versus a cell phone? I'm asking only because this person is notorious for not ever having had a cell phone in his life. I do know that he does have a land line, though.

Any insight would be helpful, as I'm sure you understand that it's pretty unsettling to see that someone I hardly know has been calling me with such frequency.

FWIW my carrier is Verizon and I have a Samsung Galaxy S8.

I've googled for this issue to see if it's some glitch of the phone but it's sort of hard to put this into words clearly so I don't know how effective the googling is. I hope my explanation here makes sense. Happy to clarify further if needed though I'd prefer not to include screenshots for privacy reasons. Thanks.
posted by thereemix to Technology (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
call verizon and ask them......
posted by patnok at 1:27 PM on March 29

Do you have that client as a contact on your phone? If so, what phone number is listed for them?

My theory is that the 'number' for Restricted somehow maps to a blank or malformed field associated with the client's contact record, and the phone is erroneously linking Restricted calls with the client's contact info.
posted by zamboni at 1:36 PM on March 29 [4 favorites]

My theory is the same as zamboni's, it's the UI on the call log with a weird failure case.

You may want to install the Hiya app, or see if Verizon is offering a fraud/spam filtering service of their own.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:39 PM on March 29

Sorry, I think the info about the client may be confusing - I was looking at my call log to get the clients phone number, but while I was there, I saw that the "restricted" call now had a name attached to it.

So, sequence of events:
1) I got the "Restricted" call, ignored it
2) looked at call log later to find the number of my new client "Allison Smith"
3) The aforementioned "Restricted" call is now appearing in my call log as "Jim Thompson". Looking into this further I see that several calls have come in from him recently, though they have never appeared with his name on my caller ID.
4) I know a Jim Thompson in real life, though not well, and we do not communicate via phone or text, and he does not have a a cell phone, only a land line.
5) I am not able to call Jim Thompson back via my call log as his number does not show on the call log.
6) I do not have Jim's land line number stored anywhere in my contacts. I met Jim twice via mutual friends and we did not exchange numbers.

So my question is, is Jim trying to call me from his land line and blocking caller ID so I don't see that it's him when he calls? And if he is doing so, why are his "Restricted" calls showing up under his name after the fact in my call log?
posted by thereemix at 1:48 PM on March 29

I have been getting some caller id that says "possibly John Smith" when John Smith has either left his name in a recent voicemail or given his phone number in a recent email. I suspect it is voicemail because sometimes the name is misspelled.

If you feel safe doing so, answer the next Restricted call and see who it is. If it is a robocall, just hang up. I have not seen any robocalls come up as restricted on my cell phone. Most have a spoofed number with my area code and exchange.
posted by soelo at 2:21 PM on March 29

Have you every emailed "Jim Thompson" or been part of a group email including him? This is another way that a contact could be created, especially with an empty phone number. Look through the contacts on your email app and phone app for his name.

Do you have Verizon Call Filter or Call Name ID? This could be (correctly or erroneously) matching his name with this restricted number.
posted by muddgirl at 2:28 PM on March 29

Here's my theory, based heavily on zamboni's.

In my experience, on a cell phone, there are no names transmitted with Caller ID, only the calling number. That number is then used for two purposes, by two different pieces of software.

The first piece of software is the Dialer, which has the incoming call screen. When you get a call, the Dialer takes the number from Caller ID, looks up that number in your contacts, and if there's a match, displays the name associated with that number. If there's no match, it may then go to a geographical lookup and display the approximate City/State, or just display the number with no other information. Sometimes Caller ID doesn't provide a number, or it's restricted, so the Dialer takes that and does whatever it's programmed to do (probably display "Unknown" or "Restricted"). The Dialer may do other things, if programmed, like look up the number in a database of scammers, and if found, display a warning, or even automatically reject the call.

The second piece of software is the Call Log. It takes the same number that it gets from Caller ID, and records it in a database, along with the time, whether you answered, call duration, etc. When you view the log, it goes to your contacts and looks up the number to see if there's a match, same as before. But since this is a different piece of software, it's actually different code that's being run, doling the lookup in a slightly different way.

My (and zamboni's) theory is that then you get a "Restricted" call, the Call Log can't record "Restricted", so something else gets logged, possibly "[blank]". When you view the call log, it's now looking through your contacts to find the first contact who has the phone number "[blank]", and coming up with Jim. This is obviously not the intended behavior, but programs are great at doing exactly what they're told, not what they were intended to do. When you try to call him back, it passes the recorded number "[blank]" to the Dialer to call, which fails because it's not a real number.

(It's also possible that the specific thing being logged isn't "[blank]", but some other string that is somehow getting matched to Jim.)

In my experience with the Samsung Call Log, it seems to grab the first entry that matches, even if there are multiple matches, so I'd guess that "Jim" is the first person in your contacts list that comes back as matching. Assuming I'm correct that the number is getting logged as "[blank]", if you change his entry to have a number (even a made up one), or add another entry with a blank number that is listed before his, you might see that the entries in the Call Log retroactively change to someone else's name.

Even if the specifics of this theory are wrong, I think it's almost certainly some sort of software glitch in your phone, and it's extremely unlikely that Jim has actually been calling you.
posted by yuwtze at 3:01 PM on March 29 [5 favorites]

Could it be a pocket call from their part?
posted by seawallrunner at 9:22 PM on March 29

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