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Can Your Vanity Phone Number Become a Sex Line?

Toll-free vanity phone numbers are not only easy to remember, but after the end of a long advertising campaign a good vanity phone number can be remembered for years. After a law firm discontinued a two-year advertising campaign with 1-800-HURT-911, calls continued to come in for another two years.

That’s the problem with the New York State DMV hotline 1-800-DIAL-DMV. Due to budget cuts, the toll-free vanity phone number was dropped by the state 18 months ago and that’s when the problem started.

A certain telephone company, well-known to the toll-free industry, just waits for a toll free number to be dropped and immediately grabs it before anyone else can get it. Even worse, they never give up the numbers and cannot be forced to even if the number was trademarked, because they don’t use the number in a way that infringes the trademark.

Why do they grab toll free numbers?  When people call these numbers, the callers get connected to sex lines.  And that’s left the New York State DMV rather embarrassed.

The local TV news reported today that 18 months later callers are still calling 1-800-DIAL-DMV and reaching a sex line called Intimate Encounters. But don’t try calling it unless you want to risk the service capturing your phone number (you cannot keep your phone number private when calling a business which only works when calling another residence).

The smartest solution would have been to license the number to the DMVs in other states and put advertising on the line which would have earned money for the New York State DMV instead of costing money.  Other solutions could have been to keep the toll free vanity phone number and block the number from callers in New York State or put a recording on the line telling callers to call a local phone number.  This would would have allowed the state to consider other alternatives and would have prevented it from being used as a sex line.

The phone company grabbing numbers has ultra fast computers to grab any toll free number which becomes available, not just vanity phone numbers.  If your law firm or any other company is considering dropping any toll free line, make sure it’s not a telephone number which clients or customers called.

If you just got a new vanity phone number and want to use it to replace your regular toll free number, just don’t disconnect your regular toll free number.  You have have both your regular toll free number and your vanity phone number ring to the same local line in your office.  It’s not a good idea to disconnect your regular toll free number anyway because you may get calls even years later from a previous client who had the number.  I once got a call 10 years after I stopped using a local number.  Although I stopped using the number, I never disconnected it and someone who had my old card called 10 years later!


  1. What I don't understand is, why isn't there more regulation when it comes to this. I feel like this is a form of misrepresentation/ spamming! Thoughts?


    Comment by Justin H — 8/26/2010 @ 12:08 pm

  2. I think it makes a powerful statement about the power of the vanity number if after 18 months people are still calling hoping to reach the DMV. Unfortunately phone lines such as intimate encounters, are far too common, companies will often pick up recently decommissioned vanity numbers in the hopes that some people will still call. Companies use already well known vanity numbers such as 1-800 STAPLES and switch around the prefix so that simply dialing 1-866 STAPLES will get you to one of these lines. I hope that these companies are curtailed from these sorts of practices but you can’t help the fact that they use such a memorable marketing tool to advertise with.

    Comment by Jeanne — 11/2/2010 @ 8:50 am

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