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VOL. 37 | NO. 17 | Friday, April 26, 2013

Please, please, punch in country code for Belize!

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A decade ago in this space, I told a story about receiving multiple hang-up phone calls between midnight and dawn over a period of several weeks.

Via Caller-ID and returning some of these calls at later times, I learned the Greyhound Federal Credit Union’s toll-free automated line was one digit off from a toll-free number I’d acquired years earlier. Somehow, I got the issue resolved with Greyhound.

Two and a-half decades ago in this space, I told the story of another phone number mix-up that came to light when we began to receive five to 10 calls per day, following a specific pattern.

The caller, always a youth, would ask for Pamela, Maurice or Danielle. We would say, “Sorry, you have the wrong number.” And, before further inquiry could be made, the caller would hang up.

The phone would ring again immediately, and the caller would hang up when the sound of our voice was heard. Danielle, Pamela and Maurice were siblings; all attended the same local high school, and a one-digit typo in the school directory had our phone number listed as theirs. I got that worked out, too.

Again, I have a phone number issue. Starting a few months ago, I began receiving calls asking for “George Wilson” (not his real name).

After the third or fourth such call, I kept a caller on the line and learned that George was from Kansas City (not his real home) but, in retirement, was spending winters in Belize.

He had notified friends of his Belize phone number, and the seven digits this person named were the last seven digits of my phone number. So, I told the caller that he/she must have gotten the country code wrong.

The caller told me the Belize country code is 501 – the same as my area code in Arkansas. I was at my computer when having this conversation, and I quickly pegged Belize’s international dialing prefix as 011.

So, I instructed the caller on how to dial his friend in Belize. But the problem persisted, reaching something of a crescendo last week when I received a call rather late one evening from Mary Miller (not her real name) at a Kansas City number.

When I said hello, she asked me why I had called her number five times the previous night. I paused for a moment and then said, “Ms. Miller, I don’t know you, and I didn’t call you. But do you by chance know a George Wilson from Kansas City, who winters in Belize?”

She said that she indeed did know George and that it made sense that George was calling her. She assured me, though, that my name had come up on her Caller ID – repeatedly.

I told her I believed her, seeing as how George and I shared the final 11 digits in our phone numbers. I asked her to please have George call me if she spoke to him before I did.

Next week: George calls.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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