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She Gets Calls and Texts Meant for Elon Musk. Some Are Pretty Weird (npr.org)
114 points by jelliclesfarm 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 100 comments

I get emails for a celebrity. So far I've received: receipts for things like a boat, invitations to perform at large events, 'just catching up' notes from old friends, and confirmations of event planning among others. Recently I got an order confirmation for a large purchase, along with a shipping address and mobile number. I used the mobile number to text the celebrity, explain the situation, and offer my apologies for the mixup (I took a screenshot to prove I wasn't some psycho and sent it along)...they responded 'thanks' and I've not received any other messages from them since, though I have gotten some other emails.

It seems they’re not very interested in resolving the problem?

Too busy, or just don’t care?

I have a fairly common surname and get a bunch of stuff meant for other people. My suspicion is that their legitimate username is just one or two extra characters after mine, e.g. "ab.normal@gmail.com" vs "ab.normal2@gmail.com". People probably think that, as long as they are careful about communicating the right username, it will be fine; but communication requires skills on both sides, and it's easy to miss a single letter or digit in common conversation or in poor lighting.

I get occasional emails meant for my mom as we have similar email addresses. It's a common mistake made by many of her contacts, what is she supposed to do about it?

Use an email account attached to her own domain so any address at that domain goes to her.

Not exactly the same situation, but still a phone number messup. A pretty large local online retailer managed to put my familiy's phone number on their payment due on their payment missed notice. Apprently they also messed their system up and send these notices to people who paid their stuff in time, so they were rightfully confused. For about three weeks we got a few hundred calls by confused and/or angry customers. Needless to say, I had quite a few interesting "conversations".

It is an honest shame that (so far) all you received in return was a 'thanks'. I truly wished your story ended with '.. and they sent me a gift/collectable in appreciation'. Either way - thanks for being a 'good guy' who made the effort :)

I was hoping to get some cool swag out of the deal I won’t lie lol but yeah I get these folks value their privacy too just like the rest of us

> Full disclosure: I reached out to Musk during one of those controversies, when he threatened to sue the California county that is home to Tesla's manufacturing plant over its coronavirus-related restrictions. Instead, I got Tucker.

It’s not explicitly said, but I’d bet that’s how this story came to be ;)

However she got the number, she's got no intention of getting rid of it. Note that she has already provided it to many talent contacts.

Plus, it's probably something that she's actually treasuring, at this point. I'll bet that she's quite warm and friendly to anyone that calls, no matter how bizarre.

She's trying to break into a very competitive field, and every edge counts.

This is a big one. If she has the talent to follow through, this may be good for her.

I sincerely wish her the best.

Yeah, she sounds like a chill person. I hope things work out for her.

skin care consulting at Sephora is competitive?

Later in the article it states aspiring actress. Ironic that you’ve been condescending and yet lack basic reading skills. I certainly wouldn’t want a skin care consultant that couldn’t read the bottle.


Yet she never called John "Toy Story" Lasseter back? How come?

I heard someone found shoes that Bill Gates once wore and a gum chewed by Steve Jobs. Both became relics and worshippers write articles about this in the internet.

Seriously though - would someone think it was ok if I got a number after a local bakery owner and started sharing messages that were sent to me by mistake? Is this ok because EM is a more known person? I think it still falls under privacy standards.

The messages were sent to her number. I don't think there is any privacy violation if you drop mail addressed to 'person residing at this address' at the wrong house.

I agree that there is no privacy law violation, but it is a bit distasteful. We have some implicit standards in the society and it seems those are conveniently ignored at this point. There is some excuse given in the article in the form of "he probably gives out this number to people he does not wish to talk to", which I find a bit suspicious.

When I got letters to previous tenants at my current address I did not open them and share with everyone I met. I sent them to their new address.

My guess is that the real problem that was touched on is Mr. Musk gives the number out to get rid of unwanted contacts.

I had a number like this, except it was for a drug dealer with a similar area code, and most of the crazy texts and calls slowed down after a few months. I have a common name and get similar wacky emails. It's an impossible problem to solve when it is a problem.

Every couple of years stories like this come out. It's pretty common for celebrities to give out old numbers to undesirable contacts. There was a story in the NY papers a few years ago about a guy getting calls from one-night stand hookups of a musician. The musician gave out his number from 20 years ago because it sounded real.

I agree with you that it’s a bit distasteful. But on the other hand there was nothing revealed in the article that was terribly shocking. If that same article were about me instead of Elon Musk, I don’t think I would find it upsetting.

In the UK it's illegal to open someone else's mail even if it was delivered to you.

You can't see whom a text message is addressed to (besides the phone number, but that's obviously wrong here) if you don't actually read the text message. And if you get a letter that's not addressed to anyone but has your address on it, then it's obviously okay for you to open it.

This isn't mail.

I mean, when they say Elon, it's no longer exactly addressed to "the person residing at this address", right?

It's no different from sending an email to the wrong address. Disclaimers to the contrary, it isn't the responsibility of the recipient to ensure the address (phone number, in this case) is right.

There's no other metadata for text message recipient other than the phone number. You can't see that the sender fucked up before you actually read the text message.

Yes and my point wasn't about reading the message but about sharing it with others. If you think you're the intended recipient because the only information you have is the recipient's number, then that's one thing. If it's talking to Elon Musk in the message then it's clearly not addressed to you, so you don't have the same grounds for sharing it.

Well, legally speaking there's really no difference.

Yeah, we're not legally speaking.

As long as you don't share personal information, I don't see the issue. Most of these message chains are, 'hey Elon'. 'Sorry this isn't Elon'. I don't see anything in here that I would have a problem being shared if it the senders had intended it for local bakery owners. Though, in that case, nobody would read the article. 'Woman receives messages intended for local bakery owner' isn't quite as interesting.

It is OK because Musk was contacted for the story, and presumably was fine with it.

Yeah, I find this article really distasteful. Being a public figure shouldn’t mean you have zero privacy.

It actually surprised me that Musk (or any public figure) would give up an old phone number. I would have expected a personal assistant to monitor the old number for a time until the calls/messages stopped.

Same. I’m planning on retiring an old DID for my mom.

Plan is 6 months of “this phone number is retiring, please update to _______, update your records. we’ll connect you now.”

Then 6 months of “this number is retired, hang up and call _____”.

Then 3 months of dead-end (but will review CDRs).

When I cancel it, I plan on calling any new owner to ask them to forward any calls for her to us.

Agreed. These messages are personal and are 100% intended to go to Elon Musk by the people sending them. Regardless of whether they had the wrong number or not, she doesn't have the right to go share them with NPR and the world.

One of the messages suggests he still gives out this number.

This can be nasty. A friend of me once got a ton of phone calls for a specific realtor. Turns out the realtor made a misprint on their business card.

The realtor didn't want to do the expense to print new business cards, so they were just going to give this card to everybody. Could he just forward everybody to them, and maybe fill in their customers on some basic information like opening hours and holidays etc.

This pissed him off enough to sell his phone number to a competing realtor.

I read/heard a similar story of a hotel getting a number that was a digit off from some old woman who'd had it for years. After they refused to change it, she started taking reservations, and booking wedding parties and the like, if the person on the other end didn't believe her when she said they got a wrong number.

The hotel did eventually capitulate.

That same thing happened to my friend M in college. Back then - '89 - our school was probably not unusual in having a campus phone number scheme that was super predictable. The phone number in room X of building Y was 348-xxx1, say, and the next room on the hall was -xxx2, etc.

So if you knew the building, and you knew which room someone lived in, you knew the number. Campus telecom never changed this up at ALL.

Well, in the summer of '89 they built a new rec center, and it obviously got new numbers. And the number they put at the racquetball court reservation desk was one digit off from M's number.

He got racquetball calls ALL THE TIME, but the ones that annoyed him were very early in the morning. He complained to Telecom, but they wouldn't help, so he did what your little old lady did: he started taking reservations -- and to make it worse, he gave out confirmation numbers.

The rec center didn't have a confirmation number system.

After about a week, the racquetball center got a new phone number. Which is hilarious and shows how stuck campus telecom was in their thinking, bc it would've been way simpler (you'd think, anyway) to give M and new number given how much printed matter had the racquetball number on it by then.

> if the person on the other end didn't believe her when she said they got a wrong number

I will never ever understand this behavior (I've seen it in other contexts) of people who refuse to believe an inconvenient truth even when there is strong disincentive for the bearer to be lying, and immediate negative consequences for not recognizing the truth. Like, do they think the receptionist is just pulling a prank??

I recall reading about a local business that lost their phone number of decades to a new hospital that printed a bunch of marketing materials with the wrong number and successfully persuaded the phone company to commandeer the number.

Update: I remember now, the phone company gave them the wrong number to begin with. Just a bizarre story all around, and quite cruel to the original business.

Heh, I remember a case of a telecom thinking they owned a phone number and assigned it.

It worked as expected on their PSTN and cellular network, but not from any other network.

When I was in college living with a roommate, a local daycare mistakenly listed our phone number in the Yellow Pages (it was correct in the white pages), so we’d get calls from potential (and existing?) customers. At first we’d tell them “wrong number” but my roommate liked messing with them (the constant calls were a nuisance) and would say they were out of business and other nonsense. The daycare eventually caught on and so the phone company called me and asked if we were telling people they closed (we denied it), and then offered us $200 to let them change our number as compensation. They said it would cover the cost of the calls we’d have to make to tell people about our new phone number, but it felt like a fortune to me as a college kid (more than half our rent).

Point is, giving out the wrong number to people is not good marketing. That would be like letting your domain name expire in today’s world.

This is related to how we got phone numbers in the first place: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almon_Brown_Strowger#Rotary_di...

Something similar happened to me, some shop misprinted some flyers and put our landline number on them. We got calls for years and sometime we still get some (you can infer how much time has passed since by the fact I'm talking about a landline)

It could just be someone who googled his name, found his old number, and found out that Musk attended an event the week before that, and just pretended to have met him in person during that event.

Very convenient for the author of the post, right?

Why is everybody taking at face value the claim that "we met up and Elon gave me this number"?

It's the first trick in the book to get your foot in the door, pretend you already have your foot in the door.

Indeed, why give someone an old number. If you are concerned about meeting them again and want plausible deniability, transpose a couple of digits and swap a 1 for a 7.

Or if you're musk, pay a personal assistant to field calls from people you don't want to talk to

That’s also the classic method of getting in touch with a recruiter or hiring manager. Call the company and state “Someone called me the other day from X company and left a voicemail, they did not state their name so I was just following up”.

completely off topic: why do so many folks on HN refer to Elon Musk as "Elon"? Rarely are peopling talking about Bill or Steve; you always add the surname or use just the surname.

It's one of the 'advantages' of having a relatively uncommon first name. Everyone knows who Elon, Adele, Beyonce and Barack are. I have an unusual first name and tend to go by just my first name, which works fine too. Sometimes a first name is just all you need.

Looking through this comments section I see a lot more Musk, then I do Elon.

That said Elon is not a common name in the US. When you say Steve do you mean Steve Harvey, Steve Carell, Steve Wozniak or Steve Ballmer?

Possibly because there aren't many famous Elons?

Something to do with his image? Here in the UK people complain about exactly the same thing when people reference "Boris".

I guess I'm showing my age, but "Boris" without any qualifiers defaults to Badenov.

I know at least a dozen Bills and even more Steves but only one Elon.

A "Lone Elon", if you will.

He's a lot more human than Steve or Bill. That is, his flaws are a lot more apparent, his emotions are more fragile, and he's always ready to speak his mind. It feels like you know him.

I'm reminded of an old Wired article about Steve Wozniak 'collecting' phone numbers. Pan Am (by mistake) and 888-8888. It's pretty far into the article, but the outcome was pretty funny: the number was unusable because...


[spoiler alert: toddlers picked up the phone and randomly pressed buttons, often enough hitting the 8 key repeatedly. He got too many calls to be able to use the number.]

I Find it so disingenuous when the journalist describes Elon musk like this one did. Here’s a guy who’s started multiple successful companies in the hardest industries, and he describes him as the guy who smoked pot and defied stay at home orders.

His recent behavior and original status as a member of the PayPal mafia does make you question how much is his doing versus his connections and placement in spacetime. I do think he is rather intelligent as evident from the Joe Rogan podcast, that is -- long form conversation on topics. But he has shown an affinity for stupidity as well. He's an interesting man but remember that Tesla and the other companies he has been part of have been partnerships and have stellar engineers at the helm. Musk is a Muskateer, not a solo bolo.

"Some of those who texted Tucker said Musk himself provided the number to them. When NPR asked Musk whether he gave out that number to people he was trying to dodge, he did not respond."

Better he just respond with the same number: "call me: .."

I receive emails intended for a person who shares my name. This gentleman happens to be an accountant, so I get lots of W2s from wealthy people -- I don't look on them, but the sender like to provide executive summaries in the body. I usually just tell them, this is not the mywittyname you're looking for. But he has also signed up for other services using my email, which is concerning.

I actually moved away from $myname@gmail.com to $random_7_characters@gmail.com due to fears that I may lose the former somehow. Nobody seems to think twice when I tell them my email is (like) hrtd435@gmail.com, so I guess it's either common, or people get why I do it.

I have the rarer luxury of an early gmail address with a first initial last name prefix.

Lately I’ve been getting emails for things like trip confirmations, flight confirmations, appliance repair receipts, medication ready for pickup emails. The person is clearly on the side of the country and shares a common last name for where they live.

Anyway, turns out it’s an older gentleman who shares my same first initial and same last name. For whatever reason he signs up with my email address. Not sure what to do because I don’t have a way to reach him.

Weird that Elon did not just pay to keep the number and blackhole it.

But now he can always shrug off unwanted new contacts to his current number by pretending to be that woman who accidentally got Musk's old one. They ask Google and the story checks out, he will never hear from them again. Best possible outcome.

What exactly are you suggesting?

The woman that’s photograph appears in the article, “Lyndsay Tucker, a 25-year-old skin care consultant, who works at a Sephora beauty store in San Jose, Calif.” — is obviously a real person.

i think the suggestion is that musk is picking up the phone in his mrs. doubtfire voice and saying "hello, this is tucker, i'm a real person, who is this mr. musk you speak of?"

... or more likely just for text messages.

Roughly like that, yes. And it really would only work for text messages, not only because of the voice issue but also because a phone call rarely contains actionable information before both sides have informally confirmed identity.

I've gotten the occasional email for someone, possibly multiple someones, with the same name as me.

Nothing terribly exciting though - an order confirmation for a Casper mattress, a hotel receipt from a Las Vegas hotel, and a bunch of stuff related to a high school reunion.

I was able to contact the organizer of the high school reunion, hopefully she got in touch with the right person. I didn't have enough to go on with the other emails though, so I just deleted them.

Some are pretty weird, and all messages are pretty private, therefore, not to be dissected publicly in npr.

The other option is that this piece of new is pretty fake and made for the love of clicks, something that I wouldn't discard. Ethic's level seem pretty low in this case.

It is a bit funny that Elon Musk makes cars, and this girl getting errant texts is named Tucker (her last name). By Tucker I mean Preston Tucker the American automobile entrepreneur who made the famed Tucker sedan. [1][2]

Note, Tucker also had some run-ins with the SEC. [3]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preston_Tucker#Tucker_Corporat...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preston_Tucker#/media/File:194...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preston_Tucker#Turmoil_surroun...

So the IRS start going on about complex tax things before confirming who they are talking to?

or IRS scammers...



I have the same name as an entrepreneur who had a fairly successful exit and is now an early stage investor. As a result, I get a slow trickle of cold intro emails with hot* start-up funding opportunities.

*definitely not hot

I have a similar situation but much more mundane. Someone listed my number as theirs on a county clerk of courts website and now I get all of their phone calls regarding their delinquent properties.

Great way to have Musk buy her (his old) number. Its not like he hasn't the money.

How often do people ask her where their bitcoins are?

tldr: His number was leaked, he got rid of it, the person who just got the number is dealing with bunch of random people who think they found elon's # online.

AT&T should just retire the number at that point right

There aren't that many phone numbers where it's reasonable to retire them willy-nilly (given the desire to have consistent "area codes").

Slippery-slope? Do it for one billionaire, you might have to do it for all of them...

You don't have to retire them for all eternity, just long enough that it stops getting a lot of contact.

Judging by Elon’s reaction, it’s been out of his hands for many years.

Well, longer then. And I imagine it's been active that many years, not getting "this subscriber is no longer available" or whatever.

Or auction it off, I'm sure someone will buy it. Some people are quite happy having 867-5309 for example.

Indeed I wonder if the current owner is doing this piece with the idea she might auction it


Elon has really kicked the hornets nest. This is the level of petty BS they will publish about somebody they don’t like. Imagine what they turn a blind eye to if they like you.

If this is some sort of hit piece it’s not a good one. It doesn’t color my opinion of him at all. It’s more of a human interest story.

In what world is this human interest piece an attack on Elon Musk? Is any non-fawning coverage a hit piece?

Why does she keep using that sim/number..

perfect phishing opportunity, if not worse


Seems like a good idea to change your number... after 4 years.

A friend of mine got the old number of a prostitute. He received tons of funny text messages of thirsty dudes.

Can imagine Elon reading this and thinking, why tf would you even report on such nonsense? I mean really, why is this a story? And these pictures of the woman receiving the texts, they position her like she is a victim somehow, I mean look at these facial expressions LMAO.

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