How to Identify Fake Cell Phone Numbers
Use of fake cell phone numbers can be a costly burden. As a business owner, you know how important it is to protect the integrity of your database. Consumers are catching on to the use of their phone numbers for marketing purposes, and are looking for ways to avoid it.
By using fake cell phone numbers to complete their accounts and profiles, consumers are able to receive value without compromising their privacy. However, this poses a problem when trying to use them for follow-up communication and marketing, not to mention trying to remain TCPA compliant.
Here we cover why people use fake cell phone numbers, how to prevent them, and how to weed them out. By protecting your data, you protect your customers and your business.
Why People Use Fake Cell Phone Numbers
The Invention of the Fake Cell Phone Number
The media industry has been using fake cell phone numbers since about 1973. You’re probably familiar with the 555 numbers you see used on television and hear on the radio.
Without these “fake” phone numbers, using random numbers offers the potential for prank or harassing calls to the owners of the actual numbers. Around 1994, phone companies decided to reserve numbers 555-0100 through 555-0199 for entertainment use only.
That means that these numbers are never assigned or offered for valid use. So it’s safe, then, to use these numbers for television, drama, and radio farce or entertainment purposes. It’s important, however, to notice that “fake” numbers and “random” numbers are quite different.
Unethical Use of Fake Cell Phone Numbers
Fake phone numbers were created as the need arose, but their use now extends past their initial purpose. Businesses, websites, and apps almost always require users’ phone numbers to create profiles, accounts, and data records. There are a few reasons why.
First and foremost, phone numbers are used for security. When trying to access your account, it’s important to have a valid phone number that you own on file so that you—the owner of that phone number—can access your account. And no one else can!
Secondly, if you create an account for an eCommerce site, the company requests your phone number in case you need to be contacted for any inventory, shipping, or delivery updates or issues.
Finally, it’s no secret that businesses use consumer phone numbers for marketing purposes, whether it be via phone call or SMS text messaging. This is where many users are tempted to enter false data.
At least a quarter of consumers enter fake data on web forms to avoid marketing and spam bombardment. And there are even sites designed to assist with this!
Consumers can find a list of fake phone numbers that are invalid which they can use, guilt free, to complete their order, profile, or account. They risk compromising account security and receipt of important notices and updates, of course. But they also avoid unwanted marketing and promotional material.
Fakenumber.org, for example, provides a list of fake numbers users can choose from to use either for entertainment purposes or for web form submissions. What separates fake numbers from random numbers is validity and functionality.
Fake Numbers vs. Random Phone Numbers
If a user were to enter a random number, a number he or she knew was formatted correctly in order to be accepted by a form, there’s a chance that someone could actually own that number and therefore be subject to messages that they did not opt into.
Fakenumber.org also offers random phone number generation. Again, the service was designed for the ethical purpose of using numbers for literature, television, and other entertainment purposes. The point is that there is incorrect data floating around.
What does this mean for you as a business owner?
This means that you need to check and double check your customer data. With at least a quarter of data floating around on the internet being incorrect, you want to validate the data you store and use for communication and marketing to prevent costly errors and wasted time and energy.
How to Prevent Fake Phone Numbers on Forms
Use Validation Error Messages to Prevent User Error
Invalid phone numbers can be entered unwittingly as well. When it comes to web form submission, there’s often room for user error. Invalid phone numbers aren’t limited to inactive or fake ones; there are those that aren’t formatted correctly too.
By including validation error messages on your forms, you can let users know before they submit that their phone number might have been mistyped or that the number they entered is incorrect.
This helps users make sure they successfully create their accounts and receive important messages from you. It also saves you time and money by preventing the submission of incorrect or invalid data.
Use a Phone Validation API to Check Numbers at the Point of Entry
If you want to prevent intentional fake phone numbers from entering your database, you can check them at the point of entry. Using a phone validation API, you can check phone numbers immediately and discard invalid or disconnected ones.
There’s also the issue of using numbers listed on the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry. Consumers who prefer to not receive telemarketing calls can register their numbers on this list to try to limit the number of spam or robocalls calls they receive.
You could face thousands of dollars in TCPA fines for calling a number listed on the DNC list. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule.
For example, if someone has ordered from you or subscribed to your website or services, according to the FTC, you can still contact them since they have an existing business relationship with you. However, what if you call a number under that pretext that was entered incorrectly?
Say a user entered a false phone number to avoid receiving marketing calls, but the number they entered belonged to someone else who had listed it on the National DNC Registry. You could be held liable.
Furthermore, phone numbers change over time. But we’ve got solutions for that, too.
How to Check Phone Numbers in Your Database
Phone numbers become outdated. What was once a valid number at the point of entry could be disconnected and reassigned to another person who has not done business with you and who may have registered that number on the DNC list. You are still liable.
Intentional entry of false information is one thing. But what about typos? Consumers unintentionally enter false information too. They can mistype their number, or enter a valid phone number initially and then change phone numbers later.
This is where list cleaning comes in handy. Using a batch phone number validation tool, you can process your entire list of contacts to find out which ones are active, which are on the DNC list, and which are cell phone numbers.
This helps keep your contact list up-to-date. You save time and money by only calling numbers not registered on the DNC list, only texting cell phone numbers, and discarding inactive phone numbers.
Use Phone Validation to Identify Fake Cell Phone Numbers
There are many ways and reasons incorrect data can enter your database. Knowing how and why puts you one step ahead. Fortunately, there are tools available to help you maintain the integrity of your customer data.
Searchbug’s phone validation API checks the validity of phone numbers at the point of entry which ensures that faulty data never enters your records. To check your existing list, use Searchbug’s batch phone number validation tool to weed out outdated or incorrect data.
Remember, you should clean your list regularly to keep up with the changing data over time. The cost of validating your data is a small investment compared to the fines you could face by breaking TCPA compliance.
Plus, you actually increase your revenue by only spending time and money reaching out to valid numbers, improving the customer experience by easing the form submission process, and identifying line types for marketing efficiency.
Check out these data solutions today!