Support the news
There are a lot of people trying to reach celebrity entrepreneur Elon Musk. Sometimes, though, they get Lyndsay Tucker, a 25-year-old skin care consultant.
Tucker, who works at a Sephora beauty store in San Jose, Calif., had never heard of the Tesla and SpaceX founder and CEO until a couple years ago, when she began fielding a steady stream of calls and text messages intended for him.
"I asked my mom, 'Hey, I keep getting these text messages' — and I was also now starting to get phone calls — 'for this guy Elon Musk. I don't know who this is,' " Tucker said. "And my mom's jaw just dropped."
Turns out, Tucker's cellphone number used to be registered to Musk. On any given day, she receives at least three calls or texts intended for Musk, whom she has never met.
If the maverick billionaire provokes a scandal, as he is wont to do, her phone blows up with a torrent of messages. (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.)
She has accidentally intercepted far more interesting calls than mine, however. One woman volunteered to go to space with SpaceX. Another person sent a blueprint for a bionic limb. "Which is, No. 1, really cool," Tucker said. "But I have no idea how it's built."
A South African businessman asked about buying 1,000 trucks. The Internal Revenue Service called about a complicated tax issue.
"I assumed I had messed something up," Tucker said about that call. "It was a huge relief they weren't looking for me."
Former Walt Disney executive John Lasseter texted about the Tesla he bought, calling it a "magnificent car!!!" and adding, "The self driving is a trip!"
"I actually ended up going to the same college as his son," Tucker said of Lasseter.
"I got to talk to him and apologized for never messaging his father back," she said. "We ended up laughing about it."
Recently, Jeff Gold, an Atlanta-area inventor, who did business with Musk in the 1990s, sent a text about some coronavirus research.
"He gave me his number a long time ago," Gold said. "I just went on and tracked down the correct number and resent my text."
Public records show that Tucker's number was once associated with a condo Musk bought and sold years ago in Palo Alto, Calif. After Musk got rid of the number, AT&T randomly reassigned it to Tucker. But online, the number took on a life of its own. It was replicated on dozens of listing websites as Musk's current digits.
NPR reached out to Musk to see whether he knew about his long-lost number. He replied with a short email.
"Wow," Musk said. "That number is so old! I'm surprised it's still out there somewhere."
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.
However people obtain the number, it is often up to Tucker to convince them she is not Musk.
"They say, 'Oh, how do I know you're not Elon?' " she said. "And they suddenly want proof that I'm not him even though they're obviously talking to a woman on the phone."
The incessant calls and texts offer Tucker a rare window into the life of the flamboyant tech CEO, a glimpse she finds "amusing." Yet sometimes it can feel like a full-time job.
"Whenever I see his name pop up in the news, I'm like, 'OK, I have to actually learn what he said because, chances are, someone is going to message me about it or call me about it,' " Tucker said. "Even though I find it funny most of the time, it does get irritating sometimes when it's like call after call after call."
She intends to keep the number, since she's an aspiring actress with a network of contacts who know her by those digits.
But she acknowledges that her ability to respond to all the Musk calls and texts changes by the day.
To those who think it is Musk ignoring them, Tucker has a message.
"I'm sorry. Sometimes I don't respond if I'm having a rough day. So if you didn't get a response, it's probably me, not him," she said. "Don't feel too let down."
Correction: May 21, 2020 12:00 am — A previous version of this Web story misrepresented the California county in which Telsa's headquarters is based. It is in Santa Clara County, not Alameda County.
Support the news