I have had some very confusing phone conversations lately that have involved people returning a call I never made.
Now for a nanosecond I thought it was someone having a great joke at my expense.
You know, the typical, "we called two takeaway stores and put them on speaker-phone to each other".
But once the voice on the other end of the line expressed a similar amount – if not more – of frustration at the situation we had found ourselves in, I knew it was not.
The first call I got was a very rude awakening to say the least.
Firstly because I was at home, where my phone never has enough reception to ring, and secondly because when I answered a bizarre story began unfolding.
After an odd exchange, the voice on the other end told me not to call them again – despite never making the first call.
We both hung up, confused to say the least. But at least it was a demand I could agree with.
Later that night I got a text from my mystery caller, who had a screenshot of a missed call from my number.
So I sent back a screenshot of my call log, with no calls since the previous day.
Then I began scouring the internet for a reason other than insanity, or conspiracy theories involving 5G.
Mainly because the 2G network is still trying its hardest to make its way out to our house, let alone 3, 4 or 5G.
And I found I'm one of possibly millions of people who have had their mobile number ‘spoofed'.
I also found there's nothing I can do about it unless I say goodbye to the mobile number I've had for about 12 years.
Even then, if I get a new number it could easily be used for the exact same thing.
For those of you not familiar, spoofing is when someone – scammers or telemarketers – take a mobile number and uses it as their caller ID for a ‘local’ number, rather than a strange number you probably wouldn’t answer.
So instead of getting a call from +263 454 35843 54324, people would think it was someone in the same state as them.
It's illegal for scamming purposes, but organisations can use ‘local’ numbers legally.
I'd imagine they use databases of yet-to-be claimed numbers up for grabs for people to pay for and use for their legitimate business.
Then, there's the other option where I’m guessing scammers could just type ‘04’ then mash the keypad and voila, you have a number.
And one of those numbers was mine.
The only problem is, when that person misses the call and decides to dial back they get me, a very confused person arguing about who called who rather than the person who originally called them.
Now, I've only had a handful of return phone calls, so either my number isn't a very busy line, people don't want to call back or people are answering ‘me’ and getting whoever is using my number.
I just hope they didn't buy the gift cards to pay the fake tax office.
The official advice on some websites is don't answer unknown numbers and put a message on your voicemail saying your number has been spoofed.
It's a difficult thing to do when a large part of my job is receiving calls from unknown numbers.
● Lachlan Durling is a McPherson Media Group journalist.