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Why you may get a text from a strangely familiar number

Texting strangers who have almost your exact phone number is the new viral hit. If your phone number ends with a two you text a stranger who has the same number but ends with a three. For the most part, confusion turns to laughs.

People are posting online screenshots of their good-natured to downright funny text conversations with strangers. Not to be a killjoy, but there’s always some risk when playing around with your phone. Remember Nextdoor? For this latest game, you might want to remember your parents’ admonishment to never talk to strangers.

We’ll tell you what this generally harmless texting game is all about, as well as provide you a look at its dark side. We’ll also offer tips on how to block unwanted calls if you just don’t want to play or if the fun stops.

Won’t you be my number neighbor?

Texting your “number neighbor ” is not a new idea. It’s been happening since at least 2016. But for some reason, it’s really taken off this month.

Here’s how it works: Say your number is 555-555-5552. All you do is text 555-555-5553 and say hello to your number neighbor and sit back to see what happens.

While some people are spooked by the text, many others have decided to engage in conversations, especially now that the game has gone viral. In most cases, number neighbors hold amusing conversations, share memes and jokes, and pull harmless pranks on one another.

As screenshots of funny conversations hit Twitter, more people are willing to play the game. There have even been cases of number neighbors forming virtual friendships.

In one heartwarming case, a man adopted his number neighbor’s dog when he found out that his new text buddy was moving and couldn’t take his pet with him.

Some folks have even tried to start number neighborhood chats where they text everyone whose phone number is just one number off.  Sometimes the group chats actually succeed.

Not everyone is on board with the number neighbor trend. There are some who send back nasty texts when a person with a number they don’t recognize begins texting them. That usually ends the conversation. Then there are the extreme cases when a search for fun has ended in terror.


Related: If the kids in your family play this game, you must know this


Viral texting game has a dark side

The number neighbor game isn’t fun for everyone. Consider this story from one woman in Los Angeles.

The NBC affiliate there reports that a woman wanted to get in on the number neighbor game. Instead of having a light-hearted conversation with a stranger she ended up being terrorized and cyberstalked by her “neighbor.”

The stranger began threatening the woman’s life and sending her videos of someone loading a gun. The stranger also called her 70 times.

When the woman blocked her “neighbor,” the calls and texts started coming from another number. The woman eventually changed her phone number and contacted the police.

The woman said she came forward with her story to warn people that the number neighbor game can turn dangerous. So what can you do if you find yourself in a similar situation?

Blocking numbers and changing your own are two good first steps. Here are a few more ways to protect yourself not just from bad number neighbors, but also from phone stalkers in general:

  1. Phone calls: Instead of making phone calls, use an encrypted social media app like Facebook’s WhatsApp to make calls.
  2. Text messages: Use encrypted social media apps like WhatsApp or Apple iMessage to chat.
  3. GPS location: Turn off your smartphone if you think someone’s stalking you, and use Wi-Fi connections whenever you can.

The number neighbor game is a gamble, but if you really want to play you might end up making a new friend. Give it a try if you want, but remember to be prepared if your number neighbor doesn’t turn out to be too nice about it.

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