Monday, March 14, 2011

A Phone Call from a Non-Existent Number

At 2:49 PM, the phone rang. No one was on the other end. Hmmm... Must have been a wrong number. At 8:06 PM the phone rang again. Same number and same silence.

Since it was a California number, I didn't want the three hour difference to result in another wrong number in the middle of the night, so I called the number back. I was was greated by, "Welcome to Verizon Wireless. The number you dialed has been changed, disconnected, or is no longer in service..." HUH? How can I be getting calls from a disconnected number?

With my curiosity peaked, I tried a reverse phone number lookup. Once upon a time, you could get this for free, but I quickly realized it is one more thing that has been monetized. Now you have to pay for it. Forget that!

I could simply block the phone number. With Verizon I get five free blocks, but why should I waste one on a disconnected Verizon number. They need to fix the problem, but before I called customer service, I wanted to do more research.

Next I tried typing in the number as a Google search. BINGO! As I when through the results, it quickly became obvious that I was not alone; not by a long shot! It appeared that not just a few, not just a few hundred, but probably thousands of people had, and are experiencing the same thing. Not only that, it has been going on for years!

Now I was REALLY curious.

At 8:42 PM, I called Verizon Customer Service. I explained what I had found to Brad, the rep on the other end of the line. I told him that I knew I can simply solve my problem by blocking the number, but that thousands of people were having the same problem and I wanted to find out what was going on for them and the thousands of others who may experience the problem in the future.

After I gave him the number and he did a look up, he told me the number appeared "Temporarily Unavailable", whatever that meant. We continued to have a pleasant conversation about next steps. He offered to block the number for me and created an NRB ticket on the number that would go on to the network people to investigate it.

I thanked him, but told him that I wanted to be able to follow up on the ticket to find out exactly what was happening. He said I could call up in about a week to check on the status of the ticket, and that was where I left things with Brad.

I plan on following up in a week, but with my curiosity now in high gear I decided to spend a few bucks and use to see what I could find out about the number. When I visited the site, I found that it would cost me $4.99, but if no results were found, it would cost me nothing. Expecting it to cost me nothing, I continued only to find out that there were three different results for that number, but no indication as to whether any of those results were current.

Not knowing whether the results were current ticked me off. If the results were not current, I had just flushed $4.99 down the drain. Hmmm.... That would be a nice way for them to make money. If you sell old (useless) information, it's not likely you would get no results. I wonder...

Armed with names and addresses, I went back to Google. I found out about what I expected; namely that plenty of other people had spent money to find out who was calling. The first question that popped into my mind after see this was, could this be a scam to make money for the companies that have monetized the reverse phone lookup? Something just isn't right here!

I don't know what's going on and I don't know if I ever will, but I do know that I am not going to let this die here and now. I will post more when I find out more.

Oh, and in case you are interested, the number was (310) 429-5382. Do the Google search and see what you think.


  1. Cool article. I've had that happen before. I've also had someone spoof call me. The spoof call, was someone being vaguely threatening but speaking in a thick accent with another person in the background laughing. I'm sure it was someone I knew but still can't place the voice. I blocked it with my phone. When I block with my phone, I get the calls but my phone logs it as blocked and doesn't ring. I never call strange numbers back I google them. The number was spoofed as a local government office. I guess the point of the "prank" was to get me to call some this office and tell off some poor unsuspecting sheriffs dispatcher.

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  3. Great article. The telephone number lookup process works well when you are trying to find the number of the person who has recently called you. You may also need to get back to the caller immediately, or you need to find out something from them urgently but do not have their phone number. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I have been getting these same calls, always with a local area code and a few different phone numbers meant to resemble local cell phone numbers. When I immediately call the number back, I am greeted with the message that the phone number is disconnected or no longer in service. I think it is caller ID spoofing software which is readily available for any cell phone. Usually it is some sad sociopathic person who thinks they have an axe to grind, attempting (badly) to upset the person on the receiving end of the call. Prank calls have been around as long as phones, so it might be a surprise to unwitting wanna-be evil-doers to find out their time and money are wasted and only hurtful to themselves.

    1. It is the result of spoofing software. This is frequently done by stalkers. It is an irritation for sure.

  5. I'm getting these calls on a daily basis, and usually in the middle of the night. I use Vonage and my calls are coming from all over the country. No one on the other end, and calling back almost always gets the "not in service" message. Some just never answer, and once I got a busy signal. Your theory makes sense because any regular telemarketer would have a commercial or sales person on the other end when you answered.

  6. What a long rambling post. W no information. This must be a woman

    1. I appreciate your reading the article, but with all due respect, it's a narrative of what happened, not a Wikipedia entry. If I had more information, I would have included it, but then it would have been ever longer and more rambling. ;-)


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