The Phantom Phoner

RantsOct 30 20078 Comments

I swear to God the humble telephone will be the death of me, one of these fine days, it really will.

For the past few months, Terry and I have been getting the odd "funny" phone call, only they’ve been not so much "funny" as they’ve been just plain "odd". And also: annoying. Really freaking annoying.

You see, these phone calls come in the middle of the night, or in the early hours of the morning, whichever way you want to look at it. The caller’s preferred time is 2:20am, but this week he/she/it has broken out a bit, so on Monday morning we were called at 6:30am, and this morning we got The Call at 4:30am.

Now, as you all probably know, phone calls in the middle of the night = someone is dead, so, needless to say, these calls haven’t gone down well around these here parts, especially given that when we answer them THERE IS NO ONE THERE. (Actually, we’re just assuming there’s no one there. There was no one there the couple of times Terry managed to get to the phone before it rung off. Now he mostly just fumbles around on the bedside table while I shout "OH MY GOD, SOMEONE IS DEAD!" at him. Then the phone stops ringing and we are none the wiser as to whether there was anyone there or not. But there wasn’t, trust me).

So, in most cases, phone calls with no one on the end of them would mean one of three things:

  • Total Assholes Management are on the case again, GOD.
  • Some other intellectually-challenged individual is… I believe the expression is "playing silly buggers" with us.
  • Um, ghosts are phoning us? From the Netherworld? Maybe?

We know for certain that it isn’t numbers one or two (Number three we’re not so sure about, but given that I only just thought of that, and will probably be able to totally freak myself out if I think about it any more, let’s just discount that one for the time being, too.) and the reason we know this is that whoever is calling us isn’t bothering to block their number before hitting "dial". So, basically, every time they call us, all we have to do is dial 1471 (which is the equivalent of *69 if you’re in the States and wondering what the hell I’m talking about now), and we get their number, which is (just in case you actually care, or are also being stalked by this Phantom Phoner) is 01142838829.

It’s a Sheffield number, but that’s really all we know about it at the moment because there’s no record of it on the Internet, and Reverse Lookup is illegal in the UK, so there’s no way of getting an address from a telephone number. We’ve tried calling it back, obviously – lots and lots of times, at all hours of the day and night – and it either rings out or is constantly engaged. Once, when the Phantom Phoner woke us at 2:30am and I couldn’t get back to sleep, I took the phone into bed with me and just kept hitting "redial", but it was engaged all night. Oh, lots of fun we’ve had with this one, let me tell you!

So far, in our quest to put a stop to the Phantom Phoner we have:

  • Called our telephone provider, who said there was absolutely nothing they could do to help
  • Reported the number to Ofcom, who said it was all very interesting, thanks, but that they can’t help with individual cases and can only monitor levels of complaints.
  • Reported the number to the Telephone Preference Service, which we’re members of. I’m not quite sure why we’re members of the TPS, though, because it doesn’t stop Total Assholes Management, and it seems there’s nothing they can do about the Phantom Phoner, either.
  • Contacted the police. They said there was nothing they could do as there is "no evidence of criminal intent". The fact that it’s a criminal act – i.e. harassment – seemed to go right over their heads. They told us to contact our telephone provider. Who, the second time we called them… told us to contact the police. D’oh.
  • Complained to the Information Commissioner. At last, we start to get somewhere! The ICO say that, yes, they are the correct people to contact with problems of this nature! But that we will have to print out a bunch of forms, fill them in, post them back and wait up to a month for a response. And in the meantime? Keep on being woken up at 2am, I guess.

To be honest, we’re pretty sure it’s an automatic dialler – some kind of telemarketing company with a dialler that’s malfunctioning and calling us in the middle of the night every so often. If there was any malicious intent – even just to annoy us – I can’t imagine that the person would be so stupid as to not block their phone number before calling (although, come to think of it, I do see stupid people…), and the fact that the number in question is always either constantly engaged or ringing out makes us think it’s an office of some kind.

What do we do about it, though? Well, er, nothing for the moment, apparently. But one more call from The Phantom of the Phone Dialler and it looks like the police will be hearing from us again…