India Debunked #1: Wrong Number

It’s the 1st day of August, which means we are well and truly hurtling toward the end of 2016.

I realised that all of my posts on India are about traveling around the country but so far, I haven’t really blogged about what it’s like to actually live here. And I get asked that question very often by friends and strangers. So for the month of August, I am going to write a post every weekday in honour of Incredible India, starting with this one.

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How often do you receive a wrong number call?

Once a week? Once a month? Once in a blue moon? (Feel free to comment below!) Chances are, it’s not very often. I think I got about one every few months when I lived in the UK and Australia.

Here in India, I get about one a day.

When we arrived in 2014, I used to get at least six a day. For the first few weeks, I searched high and low for something I could do to stop them. I tried to tell the caller they had the wrong number (super difficult as I hadn’t learned Hindi yet). I called the phone company to ask if I could be taken off their public directory but they didn’t seem to know what I was talking about.

It’s not just calls. I receive unsolicited text messages selling me weight loss services (I am 120lbs, not needed), lots of high rise newly built condominiums (no plans on investing here, definitely not needed) and online matchmaking services (happily married, most DEFINITELY not needed). Whilst I find these hugely entertaining as it gives me an insight into local consumer habits, I’ve gotten good at blocking the numbers on my phone and eventually found a way to put myself on a Do Not Call list. I think it has worked.

Baffled by this, I turned to Google to try and understand why it happens.

It turns out there are around 80 mobile subscriptions per 100 people in India. That’s around 1 billion mobile subscriptions!!! People have greater access to mobile phones in India than toilets. This is a super connected country.

According to this article, 25% of all phone numbers are reallocated to meet this demand. I suspect it’s higher as the 5 “new” numbers I have activated during our time here have all received recurring wrong number calls. So that’s about a 100% hit rate for me. India has been running out of numbers for several years now so I guess it makes sense to recycle inactive numbers.

And this does not only happen in India.

So many transactions are now facilitated with several technologies, one of which is a mobile phone. All this raises the question of how safe your information is. Next time you get a wrong number call, remember to check that your providers have the correct phone number for you. Or someone could be getting your appointment reminders and bank balances.

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