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Whether you are 16 or 80, you probably used a phone a few times in your life. It wasn’t that long ago that most homes in the United States had landlines, but many people today prefer cell phones and no longer have home phones. Now is a good time to get a look at the answers to some of the uncommon questions you have about phone numbers.

AdobeStock_235768403 Businessman dialing number or typing message close up, trendy smartphone in man hands, office worker

Is It Possible to Have the Same Phone Number?

Have you ever received a phone call from a caller trying to reach someone else? If this happens often, you probably assume that the person had your number in the past, especially if you get multiple calls for them from different numbers. Two people can’t have the same phone number. Mobile phone carriers have databases and track the numbers assigned to prevent this problem.

When a person moves to a different carrier or changes their number, the old number returns to the database. The carrier usually takes around six months to assign the number to another person. However, there are a few reasons why you might get calls from someone who swears your number belongs to someone else or why you might think you share your number with another phone:

Spoofed Number

This is one of the biggest reasons why you get calls from someone who says they got a call from your number. Scammers and hackers can spoof any landline or mobile phone number. They often use a number that belongs to another person to show that they are trustworthy.

Former Owner

People might call and ask for another person because the former owner of the number never updated their contacts. Not only can you get calls from their friends and family members, but you might also get calls from bill collectors and companies with their confidential information.

Improper Assignment

While carriers usually wait a minimum of six months before reassigning a number, it can happen much faster. When they improperly assign a number, you might find that you get calls or texts from the person who had the number before.

iMessage Issues

If you get messages through iMessage to your new number from someone trying to reach a different person, the chances are that the former owner never turned off this feature.

With iMessage, you connect the feature to your phone number. If the last person who had your number never turned off iMessage or disconnected the feature, you can get messages for them.

Different Code

Keep in mind that you can also get phone calls meant for someone else because you share the same number but have different area codes. The area code is the three-digit number in front of your number that shows your location. Someone can have the same phone number as you but in a different location.

Call Forwarding

Call forwarding may also be why you get calls for someone else. This feature allows a user to forward the calls made to one number to a different number.

For example, you might forward the calls from your office to your cell phone when you’re on a work trip. If someone forwards their calls to your number, you will get calls for them.

Why Do You Put a 1 in Front of a Phone Number?

Every phone number in the country consists of 10 digits. The first three digits are the area code, which indicates your city or region. Many cities run out of area codes and need to expand. For example, the Cincinnati and Dayton region shared the area code 513 for many years until Dayton switched to the 937 code. Indianapolis used the 317 area code for decades but began running out of numbers in 2016, which led to the addition of the area code, 463. The remaining seven numbers include the prefix for your number and the last four digits.

During the early days of phone lines, phone numbers included both numbers and letters. You would call KLS-5000 to reach a specific person. Pennsylvania 6-5000 was another popular number, which led to a song of the same name.

These digits would later change to include just numbers. Thanks to cell phones, you can carry your number with you. You no longer need to change your phone number when you move for work or school because you can keep your original number.

The 1 that you need to dial indicates that you are making a phone call in the United States. This is the country code for the US. for example, you might know a few jingles that start with this number such as 1-800-GENERALNOW or 1-800-CARS4KIDS.

In most cases, you do not need to dial this number when you make a phone call. Some phones may require you to press “1” before making a phone call to a number in a different area code. Many phones will also automatically add this digit when you dial a number. It tells your phone that your call will go to an American phone number.

Can Phone Numbers Start With O?

If you only ever made phone calls in the United States and to American numbers, the chances are good that you never called a number that began with zero. North America has a numbering plan that prevents phone numbers or area codes from beginning with this digit.

You cannot have a number with an area code that starts with zero or a zero at the beginning of your three-digit number. However, you can have a phone number where the last four digits start with zero such as XXX-0124.

Keep in mind though that other countries do use zero in their numbers. It’s very common for those in Australia or Japan to have a zero at the beginning of their phone numbers.

In the US, dialing zero usually lets you reach an outside line. If you need to use the phone at work, you dial zero first, telling the system that you are calling a number outside the building. Many hotels also require that you dial zero to reach an outside line, but some also allow you to dial zero to reach the front desk.

AdobeStock_254512329 Phone call screen

Why Are Phone Number Pads Upside Down?

When you try to make a phone call right after using your calculator, don’t be surprised if you press a few wrong numbers. Calculators place the zero key at the bottom and arrange the numbers one through three on the next level with four to six in the middle and seven to nine on the top. Your phone uses the opposite arrangement, with one through three on the top and seven through nine on the bottom.

Though no one knows why this happened, there are some popular theories. One theory is that companies wanted to set phones apart from the data machines using the same format as calculators.

Another theory claims that Bell Labs discovered that the new format worked better for phone users than the calculator format. According to this theory from the 1960s, researchers for the lab worked with users and learned that they had an easier time using phone pads that had one through three on the top.

Why is Phone Number Red? iPhone

When you use an iPhone, you might get calls from numbers that appear red on your screen. A red number means you can call and receive calls from that number but cannot send messages through iMessage to it.

If you want to let a friend know you’ll call them back later, you need to send a traditional text message. The color red often means that the person either has an Android phone or that they turned off iMessage on their iPhone.

The color red means something different on an Android phone. Unless you change your settings, all your missed calls will appear red. You may also see the number in black with a red arrow to the side. This color can also mark calls you ignored and decided not to answer.

All of the incoming calls you receive will appear in green. If you have an iPhone and click on the Info button to learn more about the call, you may see that the number is red, even if it belongs to someone you chat with through iMessage. This is just a feature from Apple that shows you missed their most recent call.


Cell phones are an amazing invention that lets you take calls and send messages on the go. The phones available today are like small computers that let you handle dozens of tasks. Use these answers to find solutions to the uncommon phone number questions on your mind.