On the heels of the arrest of a man trying to illegally sell his coveted 800 number to an undercover FBI agent, attempts by another seller trying to auction off his valuable toll free number on eBay have been shut down.
According to regulations enacted in 1997 by the Federal Communications Commission, toll free phone numbers cannot be sold. These rules were approved after complaints poured in about price-gouging for catchy vanity numbers and popular numeric sequences. The FCC reports that anyone caught attempting to sell or broker an 800 number faces significant fines.
The attempts to profit from the illegal sale of 800, 888, 877 and 866 numbers are in response to rapidly dwindling supplies. Available toll free numbers are at an all-time low and experts advise anyone interested in obtaining an 800 number should act now. Thousands of toll free numbers are registered each day. With a limited number of possibilities, the finite supply is nearly expended. Toll free numbers are assigned by entities called Responsible Organizations, toll free service providers who have access to the SMS/800 database of available numbers.
Growing concern about the limited 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. In fact, studies show that telephone orders can increase up to 60 percent and word of mouth referrals can rise by 200 percent. With stats like that, industry insiders are not surprised by the emergence of a black market for 800 numbers.
Toll free 800 numbers were introduced in 1967. Two decades later, when the majority of the 7 million possible numbers were taken, the FCC launched 888 and 877. Within three years, supplies were dropping fast so 866 was introduced in 2000. Now, eight years later, the shortages are severe. Still, there are no immediate plans to release the reserved 855 numbers to restock the depleted supplies.
Advisors say the best way to legally obtain a toll free number before supply runs out is to use a reliable toll free service provider that has access to the database of available numbers such as AT&T, Verizon or Qwest.