Here’s why you get calls from weird 11-digit, 12-digit, or even more-digit numbers:
The caller is either out of the country or trying to hide their real identity.
If you do not recognize the number, it is most likely a spoofed number that prevents you from recognizing who is really calling.
This is commonly done for both telemarketing and to run phone scams.
So if you want to learn all about why you get calls from those numbers, then this article is for you.
Let’s get started!
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Why Are the Numbers So Long?
There are a few different reasons why the numbers look strange. In the United States, a typical phone number is 10 digits. That can vary in other countries, but 12-digit numbers are abnormal across the world.
One reason for a longer number is the use of a country code. Country codes are necessary for international calling, so if these calls are coming from outside of your country, the number will be longer.
So, the question you would need to ask yourself is why someone might be calling you from outside of your country. Unless it’s someone you know, it seems strange for someone to dial from out of the country. After all, international calls can get expensive pretty quickly.
There are two things that can create this scenario in a way that makes more sense:
- Number spoofing
- Internet calling
Let’s start with number spoofing. This is where a person calls using a device or software that masks their real number. You will see a number on your caller ID that is not accurately reflecting who is calling. Number spoofing is done for a number of reasons.
First, it can mask the location of a scammer who might be calling. If you can’t accurately report who is calling, it’s a lot harder for the authorities to catch scammers.
Another reason to spoof a number is to get around call blocking. Every smartphone these days can block specific numbers. If you block a spoofed number, you will block the number that actually appears on your caller ID, not the true number used by the caller.
The spoofing software can create an endless stream of new numbers, so the same person can just keep calling no matter how many numbers you block.
The thing about a spoofed number is that it can look like anything. You can see 12-digit numbers. You can also see all zeros, real phone numbers. You can even see your own number show up on the ID. Regardless of what you see, you won’t know where the call actually originated.
Internet calling is a whole different thing. First, let’s note that internet calling can be paired with number spoofing. That definitely works, and it puts you back in the situation covered above.
Even without spoofing, internet calling can lead to some weird numbers. Google Voice is a great example. With Google Voice, you can use a computer to call phone numbers. It works a lot like a regular phone call, but Google Voice supplies the phone number for the computer.
Google Voice strives to supply real phone numbers for the service, but it doesn’t really have to. Google just strategizes this way in order to make things feel normal and consistent.
Other internet calling services can use their own number schemes. They can even use international number schemes. Because the calls are done via the internet, international phone call charges don’t apply.
Here’s the long story short. Internet calling can have all kinds of weird numbers. When you get a 12-digit phone call, there’s a good chance it’s an internet call.
Why Are Those 11-Digit, 12-Digit, or More-Digit Numbers Calling?
Number spoofing and internet calling make a lot of sense once you think about why these strange numbers are calling, and you probably already know the answer to this question. They’re trying to make money.
Some 12-digit callers can have legal, legitimate reasons to call. They’re probably trying to sell something. Their legitimacy doesn’t mean you need to answer or talk to them, but they aren’t outright trying to bring harm to you.
Other 12-digit callers have bad intentions. They are phone scams, and you’ve likely come across at least some of them. This is all about trying to trick you out of money, so of course they want to hide their identity.
Regardless of legitimacy, the majority of these calls are automated. Because they are automated, the calling software can churn through a ton of different numbers in a short amount of time. That’s why internet calling is so popular. It’s really cheap, so a scammer or telemarketer can contact thousands of numbers for a small amount of money.
Common Legitimate Contacts
Let’s talk about legitimate contacts that might have strange phone numbers. Telemarketing is still common, and one seems to be the most prolific. Those are car warranties.
If you’ve ever had a car go out of warranty, you have almost certainly experienced this. They will try to reach you through any means possible, and they can be relentless.
Warranty providers often outsource their telemarketing. So you can get calls from all over the world, all trying to do the same thing.
This is just one example, and a ton of different telemarketing products use the same methods. Even blood donation centers sometimes outsource their calling, and you can get voicemails asking you to donate blood from a random 12-digit phone number.
All of these contacts are legitimate and legal. That doesn’t mean they are obligatory.
Still, the bulk of this whole thing boils down to scams, and there are a lot of scams running at any given time.
One of the most common is for the scammer to pretend to be an authority-type figure. Impersonating the police is less common because the consequences are more severe.
Instead, a lot of scammers pretend to be lawyers. They will say that you need to contact them about a pending legal matter. What you’ll notice is that they never specify the legal matter.
If such a contact comes from a too-long phone number, you can safely assume it’s a scam. Real legal proceedings have to involve certified delivery to prove that you received a notice.
Another common scam is the one pretending to be a bank or lender. They claim that you owe them money. Conversely, they might claim that they can give you money.
In either case, if you are solicited about money out of the blue, it’s definitely fake. These scams are the most likely to come from weird numbers, and they are almost always robot callers.
The entire plan is to throw the scam at enough phone numbers until someone eventually bites.
What Can You Do About Those Calls?
Regardless of legitimacy, these calls are annoying. You get spammed by people you don’t know. You didn’t contact them. You don’t need them. It would be nice to make the calling stop.
There is no universal fix to spam calls, but there are a few things you can do that help the situation.
It’s the simplest and most effective thing you can do. Never answer a number you don’t recognize. If it really is important, they will leave a voicemail. Granted, unimportant scammers will leave voicemails too, but you can parse through that as you see fit.
For anyone who can’t resist the “what if” thoughts when they see an unknown number, here’s something to remember. Hospitals, the police, and other people you might be afraid to ignore will usually not call from 11 or 12 digit numbers. They will mostly call domestically, so you can safely ignore every long number that you don’t recognize.
When you ignore scam numbers, you lower the value of what they are doing and discourage the practice. If they are ignored enough, your number will potentially be devalued on their list, and that can lead to fewer calls over time. There are no guarantees on this, but it’s not like ignoring the numbers takes a lot of effort. It really is a win-win.
If the same ignored number calls you on repeat, you can block it. Keep in mind that there is a good chance this is a spoofed number. Ultimately, that doesn’t matter. When the same number is used on repeat, it means that you can block it to some effect.
Even though a scammer could change the spoofed number, they will have to notice that they have been blocked first, and that doesn’t always work well. These scammers are dialing thousands of numbers, and the software in play helps them to track which numbers ring and/or go to voicemail and which ones don’t. They don’t want to waste time on inactive phone numbers.
When you block the number, the caller doesn’t hear ringing. It acts like the number is deactivated, and it’s entirely possible that a scammer will stop calling you after you block them. You’re exploiting their automation against them.
Report Illegal Activity
Lastly, when you come across strong evidence of illegal activity, report it. Scams and fraudulent calls are against the law, and authorities can take action against them.
The U.S. federal government has a whole system devoted to this task. You can report any scammer or schemer to the FTC following government guidelines.
If the scam or fraud is more direct, you can involve the appropriate authorities. For instance, if they claim to be from a certain location, you can involve local authorities. If you think your accounts have been compromised, you can also involve the affected institutions.
Reporting activity won’t instantly solve problems, but it’s an important part of the process.