Misdialed call

Misdialed call

A misdialed call or wrong number is a telephone call to an incorrect telephone number. This may occur because the number has been physically misdialed, the number is simply incorrect, or because the area code or ownership of the number has changed. In North America, toll-free numbers are a frequent source of wrong numbers because they often have a history of prior ownership.[1]

The recipient of a wrong number is usually unknown to the caller. This aspect has been used in social science experiments designed to study the willingness of people to help strangers, and the extent to which this is affected by characteristics such as race. This experimental method is known as the "wrong-number technique".[2]

On a landline, wrong numbers are harmless to the recipient other than the annoyance of answering an unwanted call. But on a cellphone, if the plan charges minutes on incoming calls, a wrong number may cost the subscriber one or more minutes.

Sources of misdialed calls are similar to sources of typographical error:

  • Pressing one or more wrong keys on the keypad of the phone (example 2379 rather than 2349)
  • Pressing a key on the dialpad more times than appears in succession in the phone number, thereby completing the length of the number prior to completing the intended number (example 7522-7 with the final 7 being ignored rather than 7527)
  • Getting the digits in the phone number out of order (example 3416 rather than 3146)

Proper telephone etiquette requires that the wrongly dialed party politely inform the caller of that fact, and also that the caller apologize rather than simply hanging up. Often the two parties will confirm whether or not the intended number is indeed the number that was reached (e.g. "Is this 555-0184?") before ending the call. It is widely considered "dangerous" for the called party to disclose their phone number — rather it is considered more prudent to require the calling party to state which number he dialed and for the called party to simply confirm whether or not that is his number. The reason for this perception is unclear.

See also


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