Bizarre calls from Wyoming puzzle, perturb Virginians
Over the past few days, message forums and mailing lists in Northern Virginia neighborhoods have lit up with versions of the same complaint: Who is this nutcase calling from 307-459-1039 and why won't he/she/it ever say anything when I pick up?
The first detailed report of these calls seems to have come from Huffington Post blogger Tamar Abrams on Saturday morning. She described the same pattern others have heard: calls at random times of the day and night that consist only of a few seconds of silence before dropping.
Abrams noted the expansive reach of the 307 area code, which covers the entire state of Wyoming. She wondered if some sort of numerical yearning for Northern Virginia's 703 area code could explain the calls: "Apparently 307 has been pining for 703. Some kind of funhouse mirror activity?"
On my Arlington neighborhood's mailing list, users of Verizon and Comcast phone services have shared their own reports with varying degrees of exasperation. My wife and I are pretty sure that we've been the recipient of these calls ourselves, but without Caller ID on our home line we can't say for sure. (We get so few calls on it that we use a simpler method of call screening: We let every call before 7 p.m. on weekdays go to the answering machine first.)
But the essential mystery of these calls remains. Although Seattle-based Pierz Group's whitepages.com site identifies 307-459-1039 as a land line in Cheyenne, attempts to call the number fail. And with 55,614 inhabitants in the "Magic City of the Plains," as per the latest estimates, a house-to-house search would take some time.
Verizon spokesman Harry Mitchell e-mailed this morning to say "our people are looking into it" but had nothing else to share. Update, 8:50 p.m.: Mitchell e-mailed Monday evening to say "We have blocked the number from reaching our customers, and we continue to work with the carrier who has the number to investigate who's ultimately responsible for this."
My own favorite theory is that we're being bothered by a hacker engaged in "war dialing," calling random numbers in an attempt to find a modem or fax machine that could later be exploited. (Readers of a certain age may recall watching Matthew Broderick's character employ this tactic in the 1983 movie "War Games.") But that raises another question: Why would any self-respecting hacker in the year 2010 bother looking for modems or fax machines?
Have an alternate theory -- or just want to gripe about these oddball calls? The comments are all yours.
April 26, 2010; 10:18 AM ET
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