Black Market: Toll Free Phone Number Hoarding

To overcome severe shortages of available 800, 888, 877, and 866 numbers, hoarding of these cherished phone numbers by toll free providers, and also by individual subscribers, has emerged into an unwelcome black market.

Under rules established in 1997 by the Federal Communications Commission, toll-free service providers cannot reserve a toll-free number without having an actual toll-free subscriber for whom the number is being reserved. By law, available numbers must be doled out on a first-come, first served basis off the main database maintained by the 800 Service Management System (SMS/800).

Hoarding by individual subscribers is likewise illegal. A subscriber may not acquire more toll-free numbers than they intend to use. By FCC definition, “hoarding” also includes “brokering” –the illegal lease or sale of toll-free numbers for a fee.

The FCC began investigating hoarding of 800 numbers as far back as 1995, but despite the subsequent release of 888, 877, and 866 pre-fixes, the practice continues to grow along with the skyrocketing popularity of toll free service. The FCC has the 855 pre-fix reserved to alleviate the shortage but has not yet announced plans to release those numbers.

Concern about the diminishing stock of 800 numbers is creating an even higher demand for toll free service, a marketing tool that the FCC says is “proven” to increase business. Studies show that telephone orders can increase up to 60 percent and word of mouth referrals can rise by 200 percent if a toll free number is advertised.

If the FCC discovers illegal hoarding, they immediately send out disconnect and suspend letters to the owner of the numbers. Additionally, the brokering of toll free numbers can result in hefty fines.


56 Responses

  1. see more on the FCC’s website:

  2. Great info

  3. even if you activate a bunch of numbers and have associated domains with them you are trying to sell it as a company – that is illegal

  4. Shared use is a joke anyway because it costs too much and you are a slave to the lease

  5. once the hoarders are gone there will be many more numbers available

  6. How do shared use companies get away with doing this?

  7. anyone know where I can get the best shared useage numbers in NY?

  8. I did not know that

  9. Hoarders beware

  10. good point

  11. good point

  12. good point

  13. HELLO – Sprint has starting doing this ages ago!!!!!!!!! With success!

  14. A lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than a thousand men with guns.

  15. A wise man does not need advice and a fool won’t take it.

  16. I looked into VOIP a few years ago and the VOIP provider allowed you to choose either a local number or an 800 number with no additional cost. They explained that to them 800 #s are marginally(ie 1/2 of a cent) more expensive than non-800 numbers.

  17. Being yourself is being the person everyone else wants you to be.

  18. Speaking of financial institutions, State Farm Insurance/Bank has been using a voice authentication for about 2 years now. Their system has you repeat about 8 numbers back to it before you can use the telephone teller. I can honestly say that I have had less problems with their system than any other voice recognition/speaker recognition system.

  19. If you don’t know where you’re going how do you expect to get there ?

  20. A wise man does not need advice and a fool won’t take it.

  21. Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value.

  22. I don’t think so. I just bought a vanity 888 number to go with my company’s name. It’s not so much because it is toll free, it is because it is a little more professional to give out an easy to remember number than just any old regional number.

  23. When people call me I just always try to sound out-of-breath and harassed, but polite. It makes them talk faster.

  24. Can anyone vouch for Tip #1? Because it would be damn awesome if it works.

  25. I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.

  26. Handy.

  27. I’m glad some of these truly buried numbers are published finally…

  28. Two things are infinite : the universe and human stupidity; I’m not sure about the universe.

  29. use drums? use smoke signals? 🙂

  30. I no longer have the fear of being alone. It’s cool to find out that you don’t need a boyfriend to be happy.

  31. I should keep my words soft and sweet in case I have to eat them.

  32. i’ll print this out.. Woot.

  33. Nice, now we need a toll free number that forwards to other numbers in the US!

  34. Aim Low, Reach Your Goals, Avoid Disappointment.

  35. Two things are infinite : the universe and human stupidity; I’m not sure about the universe.

  36. The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions.

  37. It was about time! This is good news! Hopefully they’ll do the same with the others

  38. Fish and visitors smell in three days.

  39. A word to the wise ain’t necessary — it’s the stupid ones that need the advice.

  40. “Please hold while your call if forwarded to our customer service department in India”… ***** ***** ***** *****!!! ‘ello dis is Dakshesh how may I assist you? Hahahaaa….. can’t wait to try that one!! Then I can get out my cursing before the call, great! Who knew?

  41. thanks – good thoughts

  42. I’m gonna have to say that the WRT54GL is the greatest router ever.

  43. I thought the tin foil hat was good enough

  44. If you’re not very clever you should be conciliatory.

  45. Between thought and expression lies a lifetime.

  46. How do you use the free service

  47. May be the FCC should use the same requirements as code holders of NPA-NXXs , and if the number is not put to use in a certain time frame it is returned to the pool!

    Unfortunately, it seems that even the biggies pull this stuff and attach all kinds of crap to get a number! Even when you do your own homework…

  48. […] more here. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Avoid Toll Free Phone Number HoardingToll Free […]

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