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"Playing With" Pay Phones


At the time of writing, the "Do Not Call" List was coming into effect and telemarketers were attempting to collect numbers of people who had contact with their clients, either directly or through incoming calls to toll-free numbers. Significantly, pay phones were fairly common.
The (US) Federal "Do Not Call" List creates a need for telemarketers need to collect telephone numbers of people who have had some contact with their clients. Toll-free numbers often are used for collecting such phone numbers.

Like any list of numbers, their list is only as good as the source data. "Junk" numbers have a potential to inhibit such a "targeted" victim list. Working pay phones (where available) make great "junk" phone numbers.

But the real reasons are:

Other "Junk" Numbers

Other "junk" numbers are:
fax numbers (another nearly-extinct item)
Since these are typically known to the customer, fax numbers make good "home phone" reference numbers for customer accounts.)
any number which always goes to a "voicemail hell" menu
Pacific Island and Caribean phone numbers in the North American Numbering Plan (NANP)
(for US and Canada)

The Logic

Pay phones (if identified) are natural "targets" for telescum. The reasons:

If You Get Caught

If you get caught taking down the phone numbers of pay phones, very quickly come up with some plausible excuse. Think quickly ... something like, "I'm getting the number from the pay phone so I can give it to telemarketers." (They may not believe this story, but it will give you time to escape.)

Collecting Pay Phone Numbers

It's possible to jot them down, but The Telemarketing Scum Page has people who do that for you! Go to, or search for <payphone list>. Note that some of the phones listed may have been removed.

Pacific Island Telephone Numbers

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The North American Numbering Plan (NANP) includes several countries which incur international toll call rates. These numbers do not require country codes when dialing from North American phones. In addition to the Carribean, three US Commonwealth countries in the Pacific have been added to the NANP:
In addition, calls to places like Whitehorse, YT (867-660-xxxx, 867-667-xxxx, 867-668-xxxx) and St. Vincent (area code 784) are good for this.

The costs of these calls vary, but these are often charged at excessive prices.

Here are some phone directories:

Northern Marianas Tel. Directory

Numberway Directories
Pick a few and use them for businesses that collect numbers but don't disclose their purpose!

"800" Calls Concerning Existing Accounts

"Please Key In Your Account Number" - Automated Data Collection

The purpose is usually to associate an account with a phone number and not to expedite service.

Inbound autoresponders are frequently programmed to request an account number at the onset of the call. This is done for various reasons, all related to automatic processing:

The stated purpose is to expedite processing.
This is rarely the case, as indicate by the operator asking for the account number again. Obviously the opening statement is deceptive, so consider yourself forewarned. (If asked to provide extraneous information later, tell them that you don't trust the company with the data because of the deceptive statements used in their autoresponders.)

Legitimate automated call processing
If automated services are offered and the automated services are fed the account number, then at least there is a legitimate service which uses the data. This is generally coupled with a request to confirm the authenticity of the account (i.e., some form of identification). The legitimate purpose doesn't preclude unstated uses, however.

Phone number collecting
If automated equipment is used to collect a phone number associated with the account (without stating this as the purpose), you will be asked for the same information by the operator.
In all cases, if data is being collected for undisclosed purposes, the collection cannot be called legitimate. In general, deceptive descriptions are used. Legitimate data collection is fully disclosed in a manner which results in the target fully understand why they're being asked to provide data and for what purpose it is being collected.

"800" Calls - Responding to Automated Data Collection

If you are not sure the automated collection of data is legitimate or fully disclosed, change the last few digits of the account number (unless the number you are calling from has no significance). If the automated response is necessary, the equipment will let you know of the mismatch and you can try again.

Obviously this is more significant if you have a confidential or unlisted number.

Miscellaneous Notes

Choose a pay phone which doesn't disturb the host business when it rings. The idea is to let the telemarketers call people who will be mildly amused by the call; not to irritate someone who is trying to get through a workday.   i.e., choose an outdoor phone or one in a generally public place like a train station.

The Federal "Do Not Call" List doesn't include names, but if you're filling in something which you suspect is a phone number collection ploy, you may want to be creative as to name. Examples:

  1. something drug-related
  2. something gamboling related
  3. something related to the telephone's location
  4. a name that sounds like something at the location
  5. something fun
The idea is it should be fun and entertaining for the person answering the pay phone.

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site first posted November 3, 1996
rev July 29, 2008 This page copyright 2003, S. Protigal