Your phone rings. Good news or bad news? Neither. It’s a wrong number.

- Sorry there's no one here by that name…
- No, this still isn't Robert…
- I am not Robert. Yes, I am sure. Hundred percent confident.
- When I said that nobody here was named Robert, I meant to imply that you had called the wrong number. I realize that's difficult to get your mind around. You dialed this number expecting to have a conversation with Robert right now. When I answered, it was like jumping into a bracing pool of not Roberts.
- If I were Robert, would I lie and tell you that I wasn't Robert? That doesn't sound like Robert. Is Robert some sort of crazy person? Because if he's not, Robert would screen your call, or say he's in the middle of something. He would not answer the phone and tell you that you have the wrong number.
- No, I am not Robert playing a joke on you. See, us rational folk assume other people are rational as well. Robert would never jokingly tell you that you have the wrong number, because he'd assume you'd do the rational thing, apologize and hang up. Then he'd have to call you back and tell you that you didn't have the wrong number, and that he was joking.
- It's becoming clear to me that there is nothing more I can say to you. I could try to convince you that Robert is a figment of your imagination. That you've lost your mind and have called me every day for the past six months at this exact time asking for Robert. But you'd probably tell me, that's just the sort of thing Robert would say.
- So I will just hang up, and promise that if you call back, the guy who answers the phone still won't be Robert…
You are being polite. But they keep calling back. They are not overly polite. They insist, accuse you of lie, and even threaten. You need to stop this. You can put a block on your phone, which only allows designated callers to get through. This is kind of drastic. You don’t want to miss exciting calls from non-designated companies. You start thinking about your greeting message. You really like your message:

"This is you-know who. We are you-know-where. Leave your you-know-what you-know-when."


"You have reached 555-123-4567. Why?"

However, you are forced to change it to something more constrained, so that ‘they’ know it’s a wrong number and hopefully won’t leave a message:

"This is 555-123-4567, and no, it's not Papa John's Pizza. It's not the Credit Union either, and no one named Robert lives here. You can leave a message though."

Okay, you may protect yourself from some annoying calls. But don’t you think, Robert is just as annoyed with his phone calls ringing in your residence? Robert may live right next door to you, and the whole ordeal may be caused by a pair of crossed landline wires. There are still an abundance of unsolved mysteries around double-wired electric circuits. They can be tangled, inaccurately connected or ripped.

An elderly lady called her phone provider to report that her telephone failed to ring when her friends called, and that on the few occasions when it did manage to ring, her dog always barked first.

Torn between curiosity to see this psychic dog and a realization that standard service techniques might not suffice in this case, a technician proceeded to the scene.

He hooked in the test set and dialed the lady's house. The phone didn't ring. He tried again. The dog barked loudly, followed by a ringing telephone.

The problem report said:

1. Telephone wire was damaged
2. Dog was tied to the telephone system's ground post via an iron chain and collar.
3. Dog was receiving 90 volts of signaling current.
4. After several jolts, the dog was urinating on ground and barking.
5. Wet ground now conducted - and the phone rang.

Now, back to the wrong number calls. Do you know that your wires might be wrongly connected on purpose? There is a known brainless prank called “Wrong Number Generator”, invented by bored stiff nerds just to drive someone insane. Why would people do such a meaningless malicious thing? As we said, they are either bored, or angry with you, or just angry. Hard to understand for normal people.

What has become normal and easy to understand, is scam. Believe it or not, the “wrong number calls” may be an identifiable scamming technique. The fraudsters wouldn’t like to really talk to you; they prefer to leave a message. The message will sound as if the speaker didn't realize that he or she was leaving the hot tip on the wrong machine. Something like this:

"Hey Pam, it’s Susan. I couldn't find your old number and Jenny says this is the new one. I hope it's the right one. Anyway, remember that hot stock exchange guy that I'm dating? He gave my father that stock tip on the company that went from under a buck to like three bucks in two weeks and you were mad I didn't call you? Well I'm calling you now! This new company is supposed to be like the next really hot clothing thing. And they're making some big news announcement this week. The stock symbol is... He says buy now. It's at like 50 cents and it's going up to like 5 or 6 bucks this week so get as much as you can. Call me on my cell, I'm still in Boston. My Dad and I are buying a bunch tomorrow and I already called Kelly and Ron too. Anyway I miss you, give me a call. Bye."

Don’t you think, someone will fall for this “accidentally overheard insider tips?” Someone sure will.

Your phone rings. Good news or bad news? Whatever the case may be, it is some news.