Occasionally I receive a text from an unrecognized number. From the content of the text, the sender probably expects me to recognize their number. How can I reply politely that I have no idea who they are?

For example, this text: "I know it didn't work out before. Want to meet this week sometime".

For the purpose of this question, I am not concerned about spammers or other unwanted people.


4 Answers 4


Just be straightforward.

Tell them you don’t recognize their number and explain why (even if you should have it). For some of my situations I like to say:

Hey! Thanks for the message. I don’t seem to have you in my contact list; could you give me your name please so I can add you?


Sorry, I have trouble with memorizing phone numbers; can I have your name please?

It doesn’t have to be complicated and most people are understanding and happy to give you their information.


Judging from the content of the message you give as an example, the sender of the message could be assuming you're someone else. It's not unusual for women to give fake numbers to strangers who flirt with them if they're not interested in actually staying in contact. Maybe someone gave your number away by pure chance.

In that case, you should be very straightforward to avoid any confusion.

I don't recognize this number. Could you be confusing me with someone?

I think someone gave you the wrong number.

If you think the sender might actually know you, it's better to ask for their name.

Sorry, but I don't recognize this number. Please tell me who you are.

What you should not do is ignore the message. Although it's not uncommon to be ignored after a flirt, the other person could actually be someone you know or could try to contact someone using an outdated number. Not replying usually leads to receiving more messages and would frustrate the texter if they're trying to contact someone else.

Something comparable happened in my family: my mother and I got new phone numbers at the same time and were texted by strangers shortly after. I informed them that the person they try to contact has a new number now and stopped receiving messages very soon. My mom ignored these messages and still complaints about "strange people texting her and not realizing that she's not interested". Well... how should they realize?


How to reply to unknown texter?

Don't. There is no Interpersonal Skill involved here because simply ignoring unknown numbers, for either calls or texts, is very common. I only respond to recognized numbers unless the contents of the text make it clear I know the person.

If the sender continues to send otherwise harmless messages trying to reach someone else, you can reply:

"Wrong number, sorry."

Then block the number.

  • 8
    I would not want to unintentionally snub a friend or acquaintance just because I don’t recognize their number. I like making friends, not blocking them.
    – LN6595
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 16:25

I actually put myself in this situation in the past, back when phonebooks were 250 entries long.

Shortly after choosing which numbers to add onto my new phone, I was contacted by an unknown caller who expected me to recognize them.

My solution: eat humble pie and confess:

"I'm very sorry I don't seem to have your number. Instead of forcing me to go through my very extremely haphazard list of contacts, please tell me who you are".

Turns out it was a dear old friend, who was rather miffed at being unlisted! A few more apologies was all it took.

Of course, until today (and for the foreseeable future) my closest friends have an inside joke about me forgetting those that do not contact me for more than 2 years.

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