I just called to say, WTF? A phone call from a 4-digit number?
July 2, 2008 11:22 AM   Subscribe

I recently have gotten a bunch of cell phone calls from non-phone numbers. WTF is going on?

Okay, by non-phone-numbers, I mean, my phone rings, I look down, and I have seen, so far, the following:


Also, I get a lot of "no name" or "new call" calls recently, too. Disclaimer: the credit companies are calling me to get me to pay an ex roommate's debt; I recently sent them all her contact info, so I can't tell if she has put me on some kind of spam list. I also get credit calls for my ex-husband and my mother (yes, I am surrounded by irresponsible people).

I tried googling with no luck; any idea what's going on? Is there any way to block these... whatever the hell the ares from calling me? I'm afraid to answer and nobody EVER leaves a message.

I have had my number on the Do Not Call registry since January of 2006.
posted by Unicorn on the cob to Technology (13 answers total)
Shady callers can basically make your caller-ID say anything they want it to say. Your number must have gotten on a fresh list somewhere. Just don't answer any of them and they'll eventually taper off.
posted by amyms at 11:29 AM on July 2, 2008

Companies who are using PRI lines or certain VoIP carriers to place phone call can send whatever digits they want to show up on the called party's Caller ID unit. Sending incorrect Caller ID values can be done on purpose for prank or fraud reasons (calling your friend with the CID set to the whitehouse switchboard's number or "31337" or some such), or by accident due to a misconfigured PBX.

My guess is that on the 949-1221 and 949-1220 calls, the calling company has forgotten to instruct their switch or PBX to include their area code in the outgoing Caller ID. For the 1113 call, I suspect that 1113 is the extension of the person calling, and that company has forgotten to include both the area code and the prefix on their outgoing Caller ID.

Telephone companies' call records are not based on Caller ID, so the telephone companies involved would still be able to trace the origin of these calls. They will not do this for you (in the United States anyway); you would need to file a police report of receiving harassing telephone calls.

The police will probably not be very interested in taking such a report, so if you want to pursue it, I recommend that you start answering and keeping logs (on paper) of the calls including the time at which the call was received, the Caller ID number that was displayed, and what happened when you answered: Silence, a recording, a person, etc... If the calls do rise to the standard of harassment, a log of this nature might be helpful in convincing the police to take a report or in the event that you decide to sue any of the companies involved.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 11:33 AM on July 2, 2008

Have you bought a car recently or did the warranty on your current vehicle expire? My coworkers and I have been plagued by the dreaded "time to renew your warranty" calls for about three months now ... All of us drive Toyotas. I'm not sure if that has anything to do with it.

There's also a spate of real estate-related calls too...all from different numbers.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 11:46 AM on July 2, 2008

Could be an international call that didn't transmit the caller ID info correctly.
posted by dcjd at 11:51 AM on July 2, 2008

I used to call my sister using Skype and she reported that my calls would come up on her Caller ID as weird non-phone numbers pretty much like the ones you described, so these calls could be coming from a computer-based system rather than a traditional phone line.
posted by kate blank at 11:53 AM on July 2, 2008

Response by poster: Foxy, my co-workers are getting the warranty spam calls, but I bought my car used 5 years ago and it's been paid for most of the year already. So, that's not it. I'm just afraid to answer because it might begin a neverending chain of BS and maybe charges of some kind, which I'd rather not incur.

I have purchased nothing major, I have owned my house since 2003, etc. That's why this is so puzzling.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:54 AM on July 2, 2008

See also: Short Code
posted by blue_beetle at 11:58 AM on July 2, 2008

As a datapoint on warranty spam, I drive a '90 Camry that I was given by a family member and have received warranty spam calls. I don't think there's any legitimacy there, unless someone bought a car and gave them my phone number by accident.

Agree that these are misconfigured PBXes, though.
posted by Alterscape at 12:34 PM on July 2, 2008

If someone on the editorial side of the New York Times calls you, the number that shows up is 111-111-1111 (though that fake number is not exclusive to the Times).
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:49 PM on July 2, 2008

I'm surprised no one has brought it up so far but are you sure they are not debt collection agencies? Its their standard M.O. to contact, and attempt to have people contact them, in ways that are designed to appear as coming from anywhere but a collection agency. Faking caller id is certainly a plausible thing for them to be doing, they are known to try all sorts of tricks.

I'm not sure quite what you mean by credit companies, do you mean the companies that gave out the original loans, or whatever?

Its common for companies to sell debts on once the easy avenues for regaining the money are gone and debt collection agencies work by buying debt for a percentage of its face value in the hope the can turn a profit on the difference by collecting the debt. So they will try to collect the money from whoever by spending as little as possible, so they don't necessarily have an interest in spending to much time or money checking the details.

If your details got mixed in with the records, and it sounds like they have, I'd put my money on a bunch of cheap shots to try and get you to pick up the phone so they can try whatever tactics they use to get you to pay up. They may well be under the impression that you are the debtor and unfortunately the first thing that often occurs to people in this situation when they are trying to wiggle out of it is to deny that they are who the debt collectors are after.

You might do well to see whats options there are to get this cleared up.
posted by tallus at 2:01 PM on July 2, 2008

You mention you're afraid to answer... any reason why? If you know they're not after you, and it's aggravating enough for you to post to AskMe, just answer and (nicely) persuade the person on the other end that you're not who they're looking for. The frustration you save by eliminating the calls may outweigh the (otherwise constant) fear of answering.

"Sorry, I have no contact info on my roommate who you're looking for", "Sorry, no one here by that name", or "Sorry, I've provided all information I can, but I'm not who you're looking for, could you please remove me from your list?" All would probably work well. Just be honest, up front and above all respectful, and more than likely you will get no more calls. If they continue, next time they call, ask who is calling before you say anything else so that if you end up having to file a complaint or something, you know who to point the finger at.
posted by SquidLips at 4:28 PM on July 2, 2008

SquidLips, it doesn't work. Once the debt collectors have your number, it doesn't matter if the person they are really after is dead, moved to Albania or otherwise gone. They'll keep calling and harassing you until they have a good number for the person they are trying to reach, and payment.

Do Not Call doesn't matter, either.

I used to pick up the receiver, put it down on a table, and walk away. That didn't work, either.
posted by QIbHom at 8:24 PM on July 2, 2008

Response by poster: Here is why I'm afraid to answer: When you speak with a credit rep, it restarts the clock on the 7 years before it's expunged from your credit record. My ex has credit problems, my mom has credit problems, roommate had credit problems... If I speak to anyone, I am resetting the 7-year clock for these people. Hence, I would prefer not to answer, if it's them, which I will never know, because the bastards will not leave a message.

I had over 40 calls yesterday and each number was different and none was a phone number that I could understand. Fun, huh? I'm job-hunting... I can't turn my phone off. : (

Besides, I HAVE spoken at length with people calling for all 3 of the above offenders and even faxed my divorce decree a few times. Nothing works, nothing matters. My grandmother gets calls for my mother's debt problem (that would be my father's mom) and they divorced in 1984, so yea, verily, the reach of the credit agent is long and unscrupulous.

thanks for all the answers, though!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 12:15 PM on July 3, 2008

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