LOS ANGELES – With Paris Hilton's old cell phone number, UCLA student Shira Barlow is constantly getting calls with birthday wishes, party inquiries and requests to get on guest lists at top Los Angeles nightclubs.
For a long time, Barlow said she couldn't figure out why she was getting so many erroneous yet amusing calls.
Most were placed between 2 and 4 a.m. on weekends. When the callers were told they had reached a college student, they refused to believe it.
"Baby girl, how are you?" a man purred in a foreign accent.
"Why are you doing this?" one woman asked. "This is so rude."
At first Barlow, a junior communications major, thought the random references to "Paris" were some kind of nickname.
"I didn't make the connection," Barlow said.
Barlow said it began on Valentine's Day during a night out with friends. She was carrying her phone in a back pocket when it fell into a toilet.
The next day she went to replace it. When she got the new phone, her wireless company insisted she be assigned a new number with a 310 area code rather than her 415 prefix.
"I was bummed," the San Francisco native said. "It's part of your identity."
Barlow had been given a recycled phone number that previously belonged to Hilton.
The practice stems from efforts by regulators earlier in the decade to conserve phone numbers to minimize the splitting of area codes.
The Los Angeles Times reported finding Barlow when a reporter dialed a number that several sources said was Hilton's mobile line.
Just after Barlow got her new phone, a flurry of calls and text messages came within days of Hilton's Feb. 17 birthday.
"Oh my God," a caller said. "Where's the party?"
One weekend, Barlow said she answered a call and was lectured by an unidentified woman who got angry when asked if she was calling from Florida.
"I'm so insulted. You must be on drugs," the woman said before calling back five times to lecture Barlow on how "tacky" people were from the Sunshine State.
Another time, she had a long conversation with an aspiring rap artist who, after learning he was not talking with Hilton, still invited Barlow to a party.
Then came the day Hilton went to court for violating probation after pleading no contest to an alcohol-related reckless driving charge, and was sentenced to jail.
Calls and texts that previously inquired about parties were replaced by dozens expressing their condolences.
"People were scared for her," Barlow said.
The phone traffic trailed off when Hilton entered jail last month. But since Hilton was recently released, a new crop of communiquDes is flooding Barlow's telephone.
There was Hilton's former bodyguard who sent his love. A girlfriend called to commiserate and lend support, as did many text messages.
"It's disgusting how they treated you in there, but once again you have showed the world that you can do anything," one wrote.
Barlow said she has resisted the temptation to pose as Hilton to get herself and friends on the guest list of exclusive parties.
But she did message supporters "thanks so much," believing Hilton would appreciate it.
Barlow plans to keep the number because she says it has been a greater source of amusement than a hassle.
"It was really out of convenience," she added. "I didn't want to switch again."