Puzzling text exchange

I almost never use my cell phone, keeping it largely for emergencies, and I give the number out to just a few people, mostly close friends and family members. Hence I get many fewer junk calls on the cell phone than on my landline. But a few days ago, I received the following text message from a number that I did not recognize but was from my own area code.

The message said, “Dr. Singham, [name] here. What time do you think you’ll be on campus today? Thx”

The [name] was unfamiliar to me so I replied, “I’m confused. What is this about?”

I then got the following, “Just touching base. Then we came upstairs and found you”

This puzzled me even more since I had been at home the whole day and so I replied “I think there must be some mistake. I have not been on campus for some time.”

I did not hear from the person again.

It does not seem like a bot that was doing this. There seemed to be no point served and I have been puzzling over what it was all about.

Any ideas?


  1. Bruce says

    I think the standard advice would be to just “block” that specific number, and then delete the message thread and forget about it.
    I suspect at some point you gave that cell number to CWR staff, who put it on a confidential faculty info list. Then perhaps some untrustworthy student worker got a chance to copy the list, and they or someone they know tried to do a scam. The fact that they referenced you with the right name but wouldn’t explain suggests an illegitimate goal to me.
    So beware cell calls you don’t recognize. If it’s legitimate, they will leave a message that explains who they are or why they’re calling you. Illegitimate callers don’t deserve a response, which would achieve nothing anyway.

  2. Holms says

    Someone called you, having been given your number by your university erroneously, to meet you thinking you were current faculty. Then someone set them straight in person, and they didn’t bother replying.

  3. Mano Singham says

    Holms @#2,

    The university would have given the person my former office number. It is unlikely that they would give them my private numbers, especially my cell phone number since I only gave the emergency services that number.

    It also does not explain why in thee second text they said they found.me

    Reginald @#3,

    No, I am unique!

  4. file thirteen says

    I think the second text was due to confusion of the target at their end. Here’s what I suspect might have happened.

    -- x texts you. Who was x? My guess is a member of the faculty administration who was going through a list of faculty to contact, which included you, even though you were no longer current
    -- x continues down their list, texting another faculty member that they haven’t been able to contact, who is located shortly afterwards (this based on the content of the second text)
    -- you text x back. X replies, mistakenly thinking that your reply was a reply from the other person they had just texted
    -- you text back again. X sees that things were confused but it isn’t worth their pay grade to concern themselves with further, and besides, they now have the information they needed, or else they just aren’t a very polite person, at least when it comes to texting. The latter, unfortunately, is by far the most common case

    Sound plausible?

  5. Mano Singham says

    file thirteen,

    Actually, that makes a lot of sense! Especially since there was long time lag between them sending the first text message to me and me seeing it and replying to it since I do not carry my cell phone around with me when I’m at home and so rarely check it.

  6. file thirteen says

    Glad to be of help Mano, it’s a good story anyway! One thing I feel I should add, even if I did manage to come close to the truth, on reflection it’s a bit of a stretch to accuse them of being impolite. They may not even have noticed their slip (if slip it was), especially if they were busy. Texting can be full of those sorts of misunderstandings.

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