Are you SURE you want to port this hidden phone number? OK then, I hope you’re ready for the largest phone bill in history.

Long time reader on this subreddit, and another post reminded me of this story, so I thought I’d share. Apologies for the length, and I don’t do TL;DRs, you either want to read it or you don’t, though I can promise a solid customer comeuppance at the end! It happened a long time ago, and I can’t remember the exact dialogue that occurred (everything below is a paraphrase), but you can bet I remember the situation and how it turned out!

This was almost ten years ago now. I was working in the number portability department for a cellular phone company (for those that haven’t used it, number portability is the ability to move your existing phone number between carriers).

One day, a guy calls in, asking to port his landline number to this new cell phone he just bought with us. So far, totally routine. I start moving through this every day process.

To prevent fraud, part of the porting process is us (the new carrier) including some of his old service provider information on our request to his old carrier for the phone number. I start asking for it (stuff like his old service provider account number, service address with them, et cetera) and he gets super-evasive. “I don’t have it with me; I’m not going to be able to get my hands on a bill for a while,” and so on and so forth. Again, nothing I don’t commonly run into. I offer to call his old company with him to get the info, and finally after a couple of more minutes of weird, shady dodging, he finally gives in and explains to me what’s going on.

His phone number had been used by him, in the same situation, for almost ten years: fully functional in their switching system, somehow reserve-blocked in their number inventory to prevent the number from being assigned to new customers, but invisible to the phone company’s main billing system. What this effectively meant for him was unlimited free phone use as long as he kept quiet about the situation. Super sketchy on the moral end, but there it was.

And now this guy wants to port the number to his cell phone. I have connections at the landline company and can have it investigated on their side to make it happen, but first I explain to him that numbers have to be billing-active at the old service provider to be transferable to a new company, because (due to the fraud prevention I mentioned earlier) they have to match the info we send them against account records. Add to this the fact that if the landline company learned about what happened with this number during the process to pull it out of limbo and put it on a billing account, they would likely bill him for a decade of service that he never saw a bill for, or worse yet, press charges against him (he was effectively knowingly stealing services from them for years by using it but not notifying them about the lack of billing).

There is even a simple, winning solution for him, that I offered to him at least three times during this conversation: I’ll give you a new cell phone number, and since your number is fully active in the other carrier’s switch, you can just set up switch-based call forwarding to the new cell number using the landline phone. I didn’t say the part out loud where the landline company would still never know, but it was very clear he understood the implication.

Nope, not good enough. I’ve gotta have that number native on my cell phone! After covering the ground with him a few times about the easy workaround and the likely consequences if he persisted, he finally got testy with me and demanded I start this process, nearly escalating over me.

No sir, no need for that. I was just looking out for you and making sure you understood exactly what you were asking for, but you have told me that you do, so let’s do this thing.

I set his expectations that due to the situation, this was going to take much longer than normal, and he’s fine with that. I set up a follow up schedule with him, let him go, and start calling my peeps at the landline company. Explained to them what was going on, and the wheels are set into motion.

Over almost the next full month, my contacts at the landline company physically tracked down not only the Secret Phone Number That Time Forgot (that only took a day or two), but they also found history on it in their backup records going back pretty much the whole time. They were happy to do it all, since I had explained what happened, and they knew that there were ten years worth of back services to charge to this guy if they could locate the evidence.

Once the number was built onto a billing account over there, I ported it to my company as normal (it took less than a week at that point).

I spoke with one of my contacts again a couple of months later on a different matter, and the conversation turned back to this guy again. She couldn’t give me exact figures, but she told me that the bill that generated for the landline account wasn’t just the four or five days of service after the account was built that it took to port his number.

It was the entire span of service time… about ten and a third years all told, plus the late fees and interest that would have accompanied it. This had to be some mind-boggling, record-setting figure, because most accounts are shut down after a few months of delinquency, but this one couldn’t be, because the landline company didn’t know it even existed!

I would have loved to have been there when that guy opened the statement! But alas, his reaction will have to be left to our imaginations.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the tale.

submitted by /u/morgan423
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