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Received a creepy text from 2003? Here’s what’s really causing it

This is a bit spooky. If you send and receive text messages, and who doesn’t these days, you might be a victim of a strange new hack or prank.

Think about this. How long have you been sending text messages?

If you’re like most people, you probably started sending texts about five years ago. If you love tech, you may have started texting earlier, maybe 10 years ago. But 14 years ago?

Yet, people just like you are receiving text messages dated 2003. The creepier part is that they’re blank messages.

Where are these messages coming from?

As you can imagine, people receiving these blank texts are nervously commiserating about it on social networks. One user named Chloe said on Twitter: “Why have I just received a text from 2003 from number 19? Spooked.”

But, before you start dreaming up conspiracy theories or worrying about time travelers, there’s a simple explanation for how this most likely happened. (Who’s doing it remains a mystery, though.)

It has to do with the Short Messaging Service that we all use. There are two ways that text messages can be sent. One is the SMS messages you’re sending every day. The other is SMS Protocol Data Unit.

SMS PDU isn’t commonly used. One reason for that is it’s easy to manipulate text messages with it. In other words, someone can change the data and other parts of text messages that you receive.

So, the 2003 texts are a prank. Unless you’d prefer to think time travel is real.

Bonus: Did you know that the very first text message was sent in 1992? It was sent by U.K. engineer Neil Papworth. He sent it by computer because phones didn’t have keyboards. Just 10 years later, in 2002, 250 billion text messages were being sent every year.

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