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Unmasking Scam Calls: How to Verify and Check a Suspicious Phone Number
In today’s digital age, scam calls have become an unfortunate reality. These fraudulent phone calls can range from attempts to steal personal information to promoting fake products or services. As a responsible consumer, it is crucial to know how to verify and check a suspicious phone number before falling victim to these scams. In this article, we will explore four effective methods that can help you unmask scam calls and protect yourself from potential fraud.
Reverse Phone Number Lookup Services
One of the easiest ways to check a suspicious phone number is by using reverse phone number lookup services. These online tools enable you to search for information associated with a particular phone number, such as the owner’s name, location, and even their social media profiles. By entering the suspicious number into these services, you can quickly determine whether it is linked to any known scams or fraudulent activities.
It is worth noting that while some reverse phone lookup services are free, others may require a small fee for more detailed information. Additionally, keep in mind that not all numbers may be listed in these databases, especially if they are newly created or used for temporary purposes.
Online Scam Reporting Websites
Another useful method for checking scam phone numbers is by utilizing online scam reporting websites. These platforms allow users to report and share their experiences with suspicious numbers or scam calls they have received. By visiting these websites and searching for the specific number in question, you can often find valuable insights from other users who may have encountered similar scams.
These online communities provide a platform for people to share details about the nature of the call, any deceptive tactics used by scammers, and even tips on how to avoid falling victim to such schemes in the future. By leveraging the collective knowledge of these communities, you can make informed decisions when it comes to answering or blocking suspicious calls.
Mobile Carrier Services
Many mobile carriers offer services that can help you check and verify suspicious phone numbers. These services often include features such as call blocking, caller ID, and spam detection. By enabling these features on your mobile device, you can receive real-time alerts or warnings when a call is suspected to be a scam.
Additionally, some carriers provide dedicated fraud reporting hotlines or online portals where you can report suspicious numbers directly. By doing so, you contribute to the collective effort of identifying and shutting down scam operations.
Trust Your Instincts and Be Vigilant
While technology and online resources can be invaluable in unmasking scam calls, it is essential to trust your instincts and remain vigilant. If a phone call seems too good to be true or raises any suspicion, it is wise to err on the side of caution.
Remember to never disclose personal information over the phone unless you are absolutely certain of the caller’s authenticity. Legitimate organizations will rarely ask for sensitive information such as social security numbers or banking details over a phone call.
If you receive a suspicious call but are unsure about its legitimacy, hang up immediately and do not engage with the caller. It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to protecting yourself from potential scams.
In conclusion, verifying and checking a suspicious phone number is crucial in today’s world where scam calls are prevalent. Utilizing reverse phone number lookup services, online scam reporting websites, mobile carrier services, and trusting your instincts will help you unmask these fraudulent calls and safeguard yourself from potential harm. Stay informed, stay alert – protect yourself from scam calls.
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
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Why 555 is always used for phone numbers on TV and in movies
When TV shows and movies need to use a phone number as part of the story, they typically use one that starts with 555. We spoke with an official historian at AT&T to find out why these three numbers were chosen.
It turns out that the answer has a lot to do with the way telephone numbers evolved over time. Following is a transcript of the video. "Pick up your phone and call the professionals: Ghostbusters." Narrator: Did you ever wonder why phone numbers in TV shows and movies always start with the numbers 555?
555-1125. It's 555-3455. 555-2401. Narrator: The short answer is that most 555 numbers are not working numbers, so real people won't be harassed if diehard fans try to call them. 555 was an exchange combination that was not used very often in the American telephone system. You may get a wrong number, or no number at all. Narrator: An FCC contractor called the NANPA, or North American Numbering Plan Administration, is tasked with assigning numbers for use. 555-1212 is still used for directory assistance and 555-4334 is reserved for assigned national use. But a set of 100 555 numbers have been officially designated for use in Hollywood, 555-0100 through 555-0199. Cory Gillis, 555-0176. Narrator: Back in the early '90s, 555 numbers outside that range could be reserved for information service providers, but this program was shut down by the NANPA in 2015. While those other numbers might one day be put back in circulation, the 100 reserved for TV and movies will not, so they will always be safe for use.
So, how specifically did 555 become the famous number that it is today? Decades ago, phone numbers used to look a lot different. They consisted of a word and a five-digit numerical code. The word was a telephone exchange name, and the number was assigned to a specific phone in that area. Sheldon Hochheiser: Up until 1919, all telephone calls were manual. You had to start by speaking to an operator. This is WY 5-2240. Narrator: References to this system can be seen in the names of movies, like "BUtterfield 8." And songs like the Glenn Miller Orchestra's "PEnnsylvania 6-5000," which calls hotel Pennsylvania in New York. Hochheiser: These were based on names that could be easily understood verbally.
Narrator: Eventually, phone companies switched to a system where customers had to dial themselves. We are changing your telephone service over to dial. Take up your receiver, and always listen for the dial tone. Narrator: Phone numbers were reached using numbers corresponding to the first two letters of the exchange name. So if you wanted to call Pennsylvania 6-5000, you would dial 73-6-5000. Since seven corresponds with PQRS on the keypad, and three corresponds to DEF. For Butterfield, you would start with 28.
So, with this in mind, let's take another look at 555. Hochheiser: Now, some combinations for the first two letters of a word worked better than others. One of the combinations that were very difficult to correlate to useful exchange names was 55. Narrator: On the keypad 5 has the letters JKL. Letters, which when placed next to each other, don't make many words or exchange names. So there were not many real phone numbers starting with 55. Hochheiser: Klondike, which has become well known, is about the only one. Klondike 4-2106, Los Angeles, please . Then call Klondike 5-3226. Narrator: These numbers were often shortened to just the first two letters plus the five-digit code. Since Klondike 5 was not frequently assigned, it found other uses. Bell systems noted in an official guide that the 55X exchange was reserved for "radiotelephone." The portable transmitting and receiving radio unit that makes it possible to combine radio and wire telephony for communication purposes. Narrator: This was actually a very small group of numbers used in early mobile phones. Klondike 5 was also a sample number used in old phone-company advertisements, and it began to be used in old movies and TV shows. Eventually, area codes were introduced allowing for more available phone numbers, and the exchange names were abolished, but the 555 trope is still used today in Hollywood. What's the phone number of this store?
555-2310. Narrator: So, if you're looking for a Ghostbuster, who ya gonna call? No one.
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The real reason Hollywood uses "555" phone numbers
While watching movies or television shows, you've no doubt noticed that whenever a phone number is used, it begins with 555.
There is a reason for that.
Decades ago, phone numbers were very different. In those days, you needed an operator to complete the call. Phone numbers began with an easily recognized word, followed by numbers. For example, you could ask the operator for Pennsylvania 6-500.
Then, over time, the words were replaced with digits that corresponded to the first two letters of the word.
So the PE of Pennsylvania 6-500 became 73-6-500, as the letter P was found on the "7" key and the letter E was found on the "3" key.
That worked fine until it came to the "5" key - which corresponded to the letters J, K & L. Not many major cities began with those combination of letters. So the phone companies kept 555 numbers for internal use only. 555-1212 became the number for directory assistance.
When movies and TV shows began using phone numbers more frequently in their plot lines, people who actually owned those numbers started to complain that they were getting too many prank phone calls. So the phone companies reserved 555-0100 through to 555-0199 for fictional use. Some films as far back as the early '60s used the 555 prefix.
In the mid-'70s, the running joke on The Rockford Files was that every episode began with private eye Jim Rockford getting a message on his answering service from someone chasing him for money. A close-up of his phone revealed his number: 555-2368.
Another famous use of the 555 prefix was on Ghostbusters .
While almost all films and TV shows chose fake 555 numbers, one film didn't.
It was called Bruce Almighty , starring Jim Carey as Bruce. In that film, God contacts Bruce via his pager. The number that showed up was 776-2323. No area code was given, but people started calling the number all over North America to see if God would answer.
That led to a lot of angry people with the number 776-2323 having to deal with those calls. One of them was a pastor in Wisconsin who would respond to the question "Are you God?" by saying, "No, but I can take a message."
Soon, that heavenly number was creating a problem, so for the DVD release of Bruce Almighty , the movie studio changed the pager number to read 555-0123.
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What happens when you call fake phone numbers in movies? 'John Wick 2' uses 315 area code
- Updated: Jul. 21, 2017, 3:37 p.m. |
- Published: Jul. 21, 2017, 2:37 p.m.
- Geoff Herbert | [email protected]
John Wick: Chapter 2
Keanu Reeves appears in a scene from the 2017 movie "John Wick: Chapter 2."
What happens when you call fake phone numbers in movies and TV shows?
In "John Wick: Chapter 2," an international network of assassins are all notified of a contract to kill the title character, played by Keanu Reeves.
"I have everyone in New York looking for him," Italian mobster Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) tells Winston (Ian McShane) at the Continental Hotel.
The 2017 action movie, recently released on DVD and Video On Demand, then shows dozens of phones being alerted and violent attempts on John Wick's life in NYC. Two of the phone numbers displayed use the 315 area code common in Syracuse and Central New York: 315-194-6020 and 315-077-2231.
This video still from the 2017 movie "John Wick: Chapter 2" shows a 315 area code phone number being contacted about a contract to kill a hitman (Keanu Reeves).
Go ahead, call them. We did.
Both numbers have an automated message from Verizon Wireless saying the calls cannot be completed as dialed. Sending text messages to those numbers also prompt an error message, saying they're connected to dead landline numbers.
That's probably better than what the movie wants you to believe: That the phone numbers belong to ruthless contract killers.
A phone is displayed in a scene from the 2017 movie "John Wick: Chapter 2."
But why use real-sounding phone numbers? Why not stick with 555? The three-digit prefix has been used since the 1960s because many 555 numbers are set aside specifically for fictional use.
"I hate 555 numbers in a movie," director George Nolfi told the Chicago Tribune in 2011. "We do so much work to try to help the audience suspend disbelief, particularly in a movie like 'The Adjustment Bureau' with a crazy premise. The idea of seeing a 555 number would really throw me out of a movie like that, so I asked for a real number, and they sent me to Universal's clearance department, and they said they own a real number."
"The Adjustment Bureau," directed by Nolfi, shows Emily Blunt giving Matt Damon a phone number with a New York area code: 212-664-7665. Fans tried calling it, and it similarly gave no answer.
According to the Tribune, Universal Pictures used the same fake 212 number in 2008's "Definitely, Maybe" and 2010's "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World." The studio bought the digits specifically for use in films to avoid fake-sounding 555 numbers.
It also helps avoid complaints, like when Jim Carrey's 2003 movie "Bruce Almighty" displayed God's phone number as 776-2323. No area code was given, and sure enough, fans called it around the country. One Florida woman threatened to sue after receiving 20 calls an hour, and a minister -- who happened to be named Bruce -- was not amused that it was the same number as his church in North Carolina.
According to the Tribune, Universal thought it wouldn't be an issue because the film was set in Buffalo, where the number was not in use. To avoid lawsuits, the studio replaced it with a 555 number in television and home video versions of "Bruce Almighty."
E! News reports some studios have had fun with fake phone numbers, though, using the device to promote films and TV shows. "Scrubs" featured an episode with the number 916-CALL-TURK in 2004, and fans calling it got a recorded message from actor Donald Faison letting them know the show was moving to a different time slot.
"I am so excited," Faison said. "I can't believe you called me."
Similar stunts were used by "Gilmore Girls," "Supernatural" and "The Office." Paul Thomas Anderson's 1999 movie "Magnolia" even set up a real line at 1-877-TAMEHER, where callers got an informercial message from Syracuse native Tom Cruise's character Frank "T.J." Mackey.
Tommy Tutone's 1982 hit song "867-5309/Jenny" caused many phone service providers to stop giving out the number, though the number works in some area codes. Some play the tune's catchy chorus, others feature automated messages joking about Jenny being not available.
Some studios have used telecom services to buy fake phone numbers for use in movies to keep viewers immersed in the story. Because when watching Keanu Reeves kill more than 100 people with guns, knives and pencils (!) in a secret criminal underworld, it's easy to see how something silly like a fake phone number would suddenly make you think the story is implausible.
Evan Schiff, a DeWitt native who served as editor on the "John Wick" sequel, tells syracuse.com the numbers are sometimes random, but he specifically chose the 315 area code as an "easter egg" for Syracuse fans.
"I picked the area & country codes," he explained. "The studio then provides a formula for dead non-555 numbers. I called all the numbers too to be sure (they didn't belong to real people)."
Schiff, 35, has more than 20 film credits, including visual effects on 2005's "Fantastic Four," special effects for "Jurassic Park III" and "Galaxy Quest," and editor for Syracuse University alumnus Joe Lynch's 2014 action film "Everly." He also worked in production support for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
Took my daughter to see my name in the credits tonight. She won't remember it, but I will :) pic.twitter.com/aJGhp4igmy — Evan Schiff (@schiffty) December 17, 2015
Why Do Fake Phone Numbers Start With 555?
By ethan trex | apr 19, 2011.
As soon as an actor in a movie or TV show starts rattling off a phone number, every viewer knows what the first three digits will be: 5-5-5. How did “555” become the convention for fake phone numbers, and are there any real 555 numbers? Let’s dial up some answers.
Why do TV and movies need the fake 555 numbers? Just ask anyone who had the misfortune of having the number 867-5309 how their life changed after Tommy Tutone's 15 minutes of fame. Apparently some tiny fraction of the population—we’re guessing a fraction that largely consists of adolescent boys—thinks it’s hilarious to call any number they see on the screen. To curb these nuisance calls, movies and shows have been using the fake 555 numbers since as far back as the 1950s. (In keeping with the old exchange-naming convention, back then it was “KLondike 5” or “KLamath 5.”)
It’s hard to pin down exactly how 555 became the go-to fake prefix for phone numbers. In the book Easy as Pi: The Countless Ways We Use Numbers Every Day , author Jamie Buchan speculates that the repeated digit may have made the combination memorable, which helped it gain traction. Buchan adds that since no major place names in the United States began with a combination of the letters J, K, and L (the letters assigned to the 5 key on a phone), the KLondike/KLamath prefix wasn’t exactly a coveted commodity.
Since the early 1970s there’s been at least one 555 number callers can dial and get an answer—555-1212 is a standard number that rings directory assistance. The rest of the 555 numbers have largely gained fame as fake numbers in movies and on TV. (The number 555-2368 has risen to particularly rarefied air, possibly because of the “2368” combo’s use in old phone ads. Dialing 555-2368 will get you the Ghostbusters, the hotel room from Memento , Jim Rockford of The Rockford Files , and Jaime Sommers from The Bionic Woman , among others.)
Real Fake Numbers
What you may not know, though, is that there are many more “real” 555 phone numbers. Since 1994, 555 numbers have actually been available for personal or business use. That’s when the North American Numbering Plan Administration started taking applications from people and businesses who wanted their own 555 numbers. Theoretically, these numbers would have worked from anywhere in the continent; dialers would be able to dial 555-XXXX and always end up with the same number regardless of area code. The hope was that if you needed, say, a taxi anywhere in the country, you could just remember one number that would always work.
Things didn’t work out quite so smoothly. People and businesses snapped up the 555 numbers —except for 555-0100 through 555-0199, which were held back for fictional use—but they soon learned that owning a phone number isn’t all that useful if you don’t also own a phone company that can connect the number. Phone companies protested that setting up these services would be wildly expensive; in 2003 Verizon told The New York Times that adding the nationwide 555 service to its systems would cost the company $108 million. (Verizon did offer to hook up the 555 numbers for owners, but the same Times story noted that the service usually required a $2,500 set-up fee per area code.)
Skeptics claimed that the phone companies were just dragging their feet so the 555 numbers didn’t sap cash away from 800 numbers. There may be some truth to that theory, but the 555 system still isn’t up and running in any meaningful way. The list of people and entities that own the numbers is a pretty amusing read, though. It’s mostly newspapers, hospitals, random people, and the state of Nevada.
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Hold the phone — that fake number works
The politician played by Matt Damon doesn't initially remember the phone number that the dancer played by Emily Blunt gives him in "The Adjustment Bureau."
That's strange, because I sure did. It's 212-664-7665.
In fact, I repeated it in my head for the rest of the movie: 212-664-7665. 212-664-7665. 212-664-7665.
Once home I called it.
Too bad, because any movie or TV show offering a phone number without a 555 prefix is inviting you to start punching digits. Paul Thomas Anderson rewarded geeky fans of his 1999 epic drama "Magnolia" by including two real numbers. If you called 818-775-3993, which is dialed by Philip Seymour Hoffman's nurse character, you reached a recording of a flustered woman saying, "Please leave a message at the tone."
More entertaining was 1-877-TAMEHER, the number displayed on the infomercial from the sex evangelist played by Tom Cruise. If you called it, you would have heard the Cruise character's spiel for his "Seduce and Destroy" program, which promised to "help you get that naughty sauce that you want. Fast."
Those numbers, alas, don't work anymore. The first one triggers a "Your call cannot be answered at this time …" recording, and 1-877-TAMEHER (now listed strictly by numbers) connects you to the corporate office of the Los Angeles-based health club Meridian's Bodies in Motion, which didn't return phone messages even though I refrained from using the words "naughty sauce."
But here's a number that does still work: 800-984-3672. It showed up in an episode of "The Office" a few years ago, and if you call it now, you get a message from an "Office"-related fictional company.
"Hello, you have reached WB Jones Heating and Air Conditioning," a chirpy yet low voice begins before reminding listeners to keep their thermostats at 67 degrees over the winter and 76 over the summer. "This will keep your home and yourselves comfortable, at the same time decreasing your family's carbon footprint. This makes for a happy planet, and a happy planet makes for happy people. Please wait for the next available customer service representative."
Then come about 30 seconds of canned music, "Thank you for calling" and disconnection.
Other shows, such as "Scrubs" and "Supernatural," also have included numbers that led to customized outgoing messages, but usually fictional phone numbers aren't intended to be dialed in real life.
Most phone service providers still don't give out the title number of Tommy Tutone's 1982 hit "867-5309/Jenny" because of the subsequent outbreak of crank calls asking for "Jenny." (The number is not in use in Chicago-vicinity area codes; yes, I checked.)
In the 2003 Jim Carrey comedy "Bruce Almighty," God's phone number (776-2323, no area code) appears on the Carrey character's pager, so of course moviegoers called it and asked to speak to God. That's kind of funny, unless you happened to own that number in your area code.
The Associated Press reported that a Florida woman threatened to sue Universal Pictures because she was receiving 20 calls an hour on her cellphone. The phone number also connected divine-seeking callers to a church in Sanford, N.C., where the minister, who happened to be named Bruce, was not amused. The BBC reported that even a man in the Manchester, England, area was receiving up to 70 calls a day from folks seeking help and forgiveness.
At the time, Universal explained that the number it chose was not in use in the Buffalo area, where the movie was set. The studio subsequently replaced it in TV and home video versions with, yes, a 555 number.
At least all this happened before Twitter and other social media networks accelerated the spread of such mischief. Last year Justin Bieber tweeted an annoying teen fan's phone number, and the poor kid's cellphone reportedly received more than 26,000 text messages before he could shut down his account.
The 555 phenomenon dates back to at least the early 1960s, when TV and movie producers were encouraged to use these numbers because they weren't being distributed to customers. The convention has become so well known that it all but screams to viewers: "Fake phone number!"
That's why "Adjustment Bureau" director George Nolfi asked his producers to find him an alternative for his sci-fi romance about a couple (Damon and Blunt) that tries to conquer predestination.
"I hate 555 numbers in a movie," said Nolfi, who grew up in Homewood. "We do so much work to try to help the audience suspend disbelief, particularly in a movie like 'The Adjustment Bureau' with a crazy premise. The idea of seeing a 555 number would really throw me out of a movie like that, so I asked for a real number, and they sent me to Universal's clearance department, and they said they own a real number."
It turns out Universal, perhaps having learned from the "Bruce Almighty" fiasco, bought its very own number with a New York area code. It appeared in the studio's 2008 movie "Definitely, Maybe." It appeared in the studio's 2010 movie "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World." And now it's in "The Adjustment Bureau."
Universal made no one available to speak on this apparently quite delicate topic.
I asked Nolfi why calls to the movie's phone number don't lead to an outgoing message.
"This was a very, very difficult movie logistically, and my first movie (directing) too, so I didn't follow up on that," Nolfi said. "It's more of a marketing thing."
Of course, he can't win, because even when a filmmaker goes to the trouble of including a real phone number, a knucklehead like me makes a point of memorizing it instead of just going with the narrative flow (though I still enjoyed the movie). A cheeky outgoing message from, say, Emily Blunt would just encourage such behavior.
And then I'd have to tweet it.
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11 Most Iconic 555 Phone Numbers in TV and Film History
last updated on April 2, 2023
written by Sam Greenspan
Classic movies and TV shows always feature 555 phone numbers. Check out some of the most iconic 555 numbers in pop culture history.
Hollywood isn’t required to use phone numbers that start with 555 — it’s not an FCC thing. Movies and TV shows have always used them as a courtesy, knowing that if they put a real phone number out there, people are going to call it.
They use 555 because, until a few years back, that was a restricted exchange.
Now, by orders of something called the North American Numbering Plan Administration, phone companies are allowed to give out 555 numbers, just not anything between 555-0100 and 555-1999.
Flexing the 555 Phone Numbers in Movies and TVs
I decided to pay tribute to the concept of 555 numbers by putting together this list of 11 of the most iconic 555 phone numbers from movies and TV shows. Enjoy.
1 | The Simpso ns – Mr. Plow, 636-555-3226
Choosing just one phone number to represent The Simpsons was like going to Baskin Robbins and deciding which of the 30 flavors (I won’t dignify Pralines N’ Death by classifying it as a flavor) to order.
I thought about Homer/Mr. Burns’s numbers after the 939/636 switch… Moe Szyslak’s That’s Right, I’m A Surgeon number… the city of New York’s 555-BOOT… or even when Chief Wiggum runs a phone trace and, hearing the number starts with 555, throws it away because “it’s gotta be a fake”… but, ultimately, ended up with Mr. Plow — an iconic phone number from an iconic episode.
2 | Vegas Vacation – Club Areola, 555-0100
Who else are you going to call to find Mr. Papagiorgio if you believe he’s watching strippers without the need for corrective lenses?
3 | Ghostbusters – The Ghostbusters, 555-2368
They make such a big deal about the Ghostbusters being the ones “you gonna call” — you might as well know what number to dial to make that happen. (You see the number when Dana’s watching their commercial. Ray Parker Jr. never drops the number in the theme song a la Tommy Tutone, Sir Mix-a-lot or Soulja Boy.)
4 | Billy Madison – Danny McGraf, 555-0840
His number makes it on here because Billy’s so very thankful he called THAT guy.
(You know, after Danny comes in and shoots Eric in the buttocks. No matter how many awards Bradley Whitford wins for his acting, an entire generation will continue to primarily associate him with his role as Eric in Billy Madison . Which is fantastic.)
5 | Saved By the Bell – Screech’s Spaghetti Sauce, 555-MMMM
The sauce-a you can have, but the secret, she’s a-mine! (I gotta say, after reading and reviewing Dustin “Screech” Diamond’s insane autobiography , it’s really hard to watch Saved By the Bell the same way as I used to.
He definitely tainted it for me. Pulled back the whole curtain. I’m beginning to suspect that, when Kelly started kinda liking him, Gorbechav wasn’t really saying “Way to go, Screech” like the subtitles claim.)
6 | Swingers – Mikey’s number, 213-555-4679
This comes from the most uncomfortable scene in Swingers — and that’s really saying something. When Mikey leaves a series of messages on a woman’s answering machine, he repeatedly mentions this 555 number.
I think this scene may have been what scared me off of leaving voicemails in my dating life.
7 | Bruce Almighty – God’s number, 555-0123 (eventually)
I did not like Bruce Almighty at all — I felt they took a can’t-miss comedy premise and missed badly — but the story of the 555 number in the movie is an interesting one.
In the theatrical release, God contacts Bruce Almighty via his pager, using the number 776-2323. (Which wasn’t tied in to Jim Carrey’s movie The Number 23 later on in a big missed opportunity.)
The movie was set in Buffalo, so the producers checked to make sure that 716-776-2323 was clear. It was. But… no area code was given in the film — which led to tons of people from calling 776-2323 in whatever area code they happened to be in.
So, for the DVD and TV versions of the movie, they changed the number to the ultra-generic 555-0123. This is to keep the 776-2323s of the world from periodic harassment.
Of course, now, because of that, the legend of 776-2323 lives and grows on the Internet — but we don’t have to show the same level of compassion for people’s feelings, so it’s all good.
8 | Seinfeld – Kramer’s telephone, 555-FILK
We learned this was Kramer’s number in the episode where he keeps getting calls for Moviefone — which is 555-FILM. (Kramer’s eventual acceptance of being the new Moviefone guy leads to a great Seinfeld staple — random movie titles. I covered many of the titles from this episode in my old list 11 Fake Movies From Seinfeld That Really Need To Be Made . Especially Chunnel .)
9 | Arrested Development – Gene Parmesan: Private Eye, 555-0113
So it’s not quite as funny or plot-related as the rest of the 555 numbers on this list — but I wasn’t going to miss a chance to give Gene Parmesan a shout-out. When I finally make my list of the best Arrested Development side characters he’s a very strong contender for one of the top spots.
This is Gene’s ad in the Yellow Pages, right across the binding from the ad for Ice – Bounty Hunter. (And several pages away from the ad for Ice – Party Planner.)
10 | Die Hard With a Vengeance – Simon’s riddled number, 555-0001
I always feel like Die Hard With a Vengeance was cobbled together from two scripts. At the beginning, Simon is tormenting the police (especially John Mclain) with all of these riddles and random, crazy tasks. Then, around the halfway point, he stops talking in riddles, just says “there’s a bomb in a school” and goes on with his gold heist. Very schizophrenic.
Personally, I find him way more entertaining when he’s talking in riddles. This 555 number comes from one of the movie’s most famous scenes, when he tells John the “As I was going to St. Ives” riddle — and says his number is 555, then the number of people headed to St. Ives.
11 | The A-Team – Hannibal’s mobile phone, 555-6162
So… uh… I guess I *do* know how to find them. Take that, theme song narration .
Roger the Phone Guy
So… you're in charge of the phones now, telephony easter eggs in movies, note – this is a re-posting of an identical blog post on jollyrogertelephone.com, and linkedin. but i wanted to mention a couple more that i recently discovered, so i’ll use this blog posting here to update regularly as i found them – and hopefully to engage with you as you discover them too, whenever i watch a movie, i’m always on the lookout for telephone numbers..
By now, I think we all know the 555 prefix is used for fake Hollywood numbers. I learned recently that not all 555 numbers are available for fake usage. Some of you may remember you could call information in another area by dialing NPA-555-1212, so Los Angeles was 213-555-1212, New York 212-555-1212, etc. But in the last 20 years or so, all 411 is pretty much nationwide, and with smartphones, who uses 411 anymore anyway? According to ATIS (the authority in this matter), only 555-0100 through 0199 are reserved for “entertainment and advertising purposes”. The rest of the numbers (other than 555-1212) are reserved for future use. The intention is for a 555-XXXX number to route to the same place regardless of areacode. This gives the industry tremendous flexibility someday to have a nationwide 7-digit telephone number. Although all the telephone companies will have to comply somehow. And the whole industry is moving towards 10-digit dialing anyway.
But someday perhaps this Ghostbusters telephone number will work nation-wide.
Ghostbusters – We’re ready to believe you!
Ghostbusters was made prior to the guidelines set in 1994 to use 555-0100 through 555-0199. This is how we know Veronica Mars was made after 1994. In that show, telephone numbers are displayed frequently, and all are in the allowed range of 555-01xx.
Veronica Mars phones
For the longest time, it was common for telephone system administrators to block calls to 555-XXXX or XXX-555-XXXX. You typically didn’t want your users dialing long-distance to “information”, and XXX-555-1212 was the only valid number. I remember sometime in 2013 or so, I got a call from a manager because he couldn’t call his BMW dealer. It turns out the dealer had an 800-555-XXXX number, which I found interesting. So I had to program the telephone system to allow calls to all of the tollfree area codes (800, 888, 877, etc.) with the 555 prefix. If you manage a telephone system, you probably had to do this also (or you will eventually – you might want to check).
Anyway, back to Hollywood telephone Easter Eggs. I recently saw this “hotline” number in the movie Don’t Look Up .
Don’t Look Up – BASH Hotline
Of course, I immediately paused the movie and called the number (I recommend you finish the movie before doing this), and discovered a delightful series of hold announcements to compliment the movie. This is not something we could do back when we saw movies in the theater, but it’s fun to do it when streaming movies in our homes or on our devices. I recommend you call the number so the show’s producers can track engagement. But if the number is dead, here is the audio. It ends with a very convincing disconnect message at 15 minutes. I don’t know where they got it, but it sounds Genuine Telco.
You’ll notice this is NOT a tollfree number. The IMDB trivia mentions a different hotline number with a tollfree number that routes to an adult chat line service. I’m not sure how this was allowed to happen – Netflix made a similar mistake with the Squid Game when a real telephone number appeared in a scene. But in Don’t Look Up, they apparently procured a telephone number and edited the scene by the time I saw it, otherwise I would have called that chat line also! The new number, a vanity number ending in COMET, fits nicely with the tone of the movie. And the telephone announcements are perfect as well. This must have been rushed, or else they would have included it originally, yes? I noticed they got the same voice talent they used in the movie. The “BASH Narrator” is Liev Schreiber , according to IMDB. What fun to have him record a bunch of goofy on-hold announcements for a fake call center.
And, as an Easter Egg within an Easter Egg, the rate center for 254-632-6638 is Waco, TX, home of the Waco Siege . If you’ve seen the movie, I think that was intentional.
Speaking of more fake numbers, apparently, the Baby Sitter’s Club mentioned a real number intentionally as well. Alas, when I call it now, I just get a fast busy. This makes me wonder about the funding for these Easter Eggs. Does the marketing and promotions budget pay for these? And if so, is it temporary? These movies have a long shelf-life. I assume I will be able to watch the Baby Sitter’s Club many years from now. What happens if some unsuspecting subscriber is assigned that number in the future? Also, if the show is successful, there might be a considerable amount of inbound traffic. This can be a problem if the telephone number is hosted by a VoIP company that charges for inbound traffic (as most do). Don’t Look Up is in Netflix’s top 10 right now. I assume that telephone number is pretty busy. What happens when Marketing pulls the plug on the budget?
I seem to recall a scene in Fletch when Fletch is looking up some medical records of Alan Stanwyk and a telephone number could briefly be seen. I don’t know who has that number today. I wonder if anyone ever calls it? Fletch was made before the North American Numbering Plan Administration reserved fake numbers for movies. Although, Ghostbusters used 555, so I’m not sure why Fletch didn’t. I cannot seem to stream Fletch at the moment, so I cannot verify. I do have the DVD somewhere.
Although it’s not movie-related, I did want to mention my favorite telephony Easter Egg is from a game called Kentucky Route Zero. The game was published in five “episodes”. At one point, the developer, Cardboard Computers, published an “interlude” to the game with a telephone number of 270-301-5797. The CNAM says Gracey, KY but the ratecenter for 270-301 is Madison. Regardless, this telephone number connects you to the most amazing IVR I’ve ever heard . It DEFINITELY fits the mood of the game. The voice and content are absolutely perfect. I applaud the creative team involved in this. If you call it, you’ll understand why I have not provided audio. At some point, perhaps I’ll try to crawl this IVR and record it, but I have not tried. I believe it was set up in 2013 or so, and at the time I write this in early 2022, it is still active. I hope the developers never pull it down. But call it now just in case.
Kentucky Route Zero – Bureau of Secret Tourism
But back to movies…
And, if you are a child of the 80s like me, you may remember that telephone numbers featured prominently in Wargames . In one scene, David Lightman speaks with an operator and requests the local prefixes for Sunnyvale, CA. He then sets up a wardialer to call every number in that area. For this case, the writers could not just use the single prefix of ‘555’. So they fudged the area code when displaying the wardialer at work. The real area code for Sunnyvale, CA was 408 in 1983. But the screenshots show area code 311, which is an invalid code and impossible to call.
Wargames – Impossible area code 311
I’m not sure what the guidelines would be today if a movie needed to show a long list of non-555 telephone numbers. Probably something similar to this – using an invalid area code. For now, area codes cannot start with 0 or 1, nor end in 11. Prior to 1995, the middle digit had to be a 0 or 1, but this is no longer the case. So if Hollywood needs to show fake telephone numbers and wants to avoid the jarringly fake 555, then invalid area codes are the way to go.
But I love the approach that Don’t Look Up has taken – why not hide an Easter Egg in your movie?
So Hollywood – I’d like to make an offer. At the Jolly Roger Telephone Company , we have an extensive inventory of telephone numbers and access to many more. If you’re considering including a telephony Easter Egg in your show or movie, please let me help! Most of our numbers include unlimited inbound calls. Or, if you want a vanity number, we can find one and port it into our network. The rules have changed over the years for telephone number formats, so if you’re making a period piece, I can help you find a telephone number that fits the time. And I can make an AI robot of anyone in your cast of the movie, so your viewers could call into the number and speak with a character from your movie. In the case of Don’t Look Up, callers could speak with President Orlean, or Dr. Randall Mindy, or perhaps funniest of all, Jason Orlean. And as a lover of telecommunications, I will take good care of these numbers and the associated robots as a museum curator takes care of a beloved collection. Stop using the boring and obvious 555 prefix! Let’s hide some Easter Eggs and engage with your audience!
In the meantime, please let me know if you remember or notice any telephony-related Easter Eggs as you watch these shows! Also, for those of you outside the US, what does your entertainment industry do for fake telephone numbers?
Thank you all! Roger Anderson ([email protected])
Update 2/13/2022 – The Italian Job
I’m a fan of heist movies, so I’m not sure how I missed The Italian Job for so many years. But shortly after writing this I saw a tollfree 555 number on the NetCom van. As I mentioned above, the npa/nxx of 800-555 is actually assigned, so compliance is important. Here we see 800-555-0199. I remember an internet service provider in the 90s called Netcom. I guess the name was available for use in this movie?
The Italian Job – NetCom van
The winner for best telecom Easter egg in a show is – Reacher!
The best Telecom Easter Egg I have found so far was in the Amazon show “Reacher”. I have posted a specific entry about that here.
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What do Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, and Good Will Hunting all have in common? A phone number.
Admit it: When you were a kid, and you saw someone on television write down their number as 555-XXXX, you tried calling it with your friends. Maybe you were up for a prank call, or maybe you really wanted to see who would pick up on the other line, but you’d only be met with disappointment as it turned out to be a fake number.
Why? That tricky 555 prefix.
The main reason movies and television shows used a 555-XXXX number is because, for decades, nobody was assigned a phone number beginning with 555—with the exception of an operator for directory assistance at 555-1212.
Other than that, all of the 555s were up for grabs in films.
Jamie Buchan, author of Easy as Pi: The Countless Ways We Use Numbers Every Day , guesses that the use of 555 started because, “The repeated digit may have made the combination memorable, which helped it gain traction. No major place names in the United States began with a combination of the letters J, K, and L (the letters assigned to the 5 key on a phone), the KLondike/KLamath prefix wasn’t exactly a coveted commodity.”
There is a movie called Last Action Hero in which the main character (a teenage boy) gets a magic movie ticket which transports him into his favorite action film. The movie he is transported into requires him to save the day with the help of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but first, he must convince Arnold that they’re in a movie and nothing is real. In order to do that, he asks a handful of passersby what their phone number is. Their answers all begin with 555. He then explains that the only people who have numbers with 555 are in the movies.
Last Action Hero isn’t the only movie with famous 555 numbers, though—there is a list of hundreds of entries. In fact, some famous films even use the same number as others on purpose.
So if you tried to get The Ghostbusters at their number (555-2368), you’d also be calling the hotel room from Memento , Jim Rockford of The Rockford Files , and Jaime Sommers from The Bionic Woman .
And how can you forget in Good Will Hunting , when Matt Damon holds up Skylar’s number against the glass as he says, “Well, I got her number. How you like ‘dem apples?” That number? 555-1294.
It was a good run for 555 numbers in film and television.
Numbers beginning with 555 were only used in Hollywood starting in 1973, but that all changed in 1994.
Marcia Biederman, a writer for The New York Times explains, the run ended “when a contractor to the Federal Communications Commission, the North American Numbering Plan Administration, began accepting applications for these numbers from the public. They were meant to be dialed nationally or across broad regions of the continent, without regard to area code, on the model of 555-1212, the directory assistance number.”
Many of these 555 numbers were immediately snatched up by companies, all of which had hopes of using them as nationwide numbers; their plan was to have customers dial those number without an area code anywhere in the United States and get the same company. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as intended.
The phone companies quickly realized that it would take away from the numbers available for 1-800 numbers and they began charging upwards of $2,500 per area code for the same 555 number. With over 250 area codes in the United States, that’s a lot of money, and these companies clamoring for 555 numbers weren’t happy.
The phone companies, however, insisted the 555 snafu wasn’t their fault and, instead, blamed it on the limits of technology.
Al Novell, a manager in Verizon’s federal regulatory group, explained , ”People have been coming to us over the past year or so and saying: ‘Do this for me. It’s easy. It’s inexpensive.’ But it isn’t.’ … A national 555 system would require broad application of Advanced Intelligent Network, which adds new services to existing switches, and would cost Verizon at least $108 million.”
So sure, members of the public (and companies) can request a 555 number, but that doesn’t mean much if you can’t use the number at all. As Biederman explains for the Times , “an assignment cost nothing, but it was left to the assignee to work out activation and payment arrangements with local phone companies.”
Mental Floss points out, “the 555 system still isn’t up and running in any meaningful way.”
As for numbers in film and television, a range of 555 numbers got specifically reserved for fiction. Shows and movies can use 555-0100 to 555-0199; beyond that, they can just use a real number to avoid seeming obviously fake.
In a fun turn of events, the movies and shows that do use real numbers often try to have some fun with it.
On Scrubs, Turk got a pager and told J.D to page him at 916-CALL-TURK.
When fans of the show dialed the number, they got a recorded message from Donald Faison (who played Turk) telling them the show has moved to a new time slot and to vote for them for the People’s Choice Awards.
Less fun though is when a movie doesn’t specify an area code. Woe to the person who has the same phone number in this situation. In Bruce Almighty , God’s phone number showed up on Bruce’s pager as a non-555 number. The number wasn’t in use in Buffalo, New York, where the set of the film was, but 30 people in different area codes around the country that did have that number got calls asking if they were God.
One woman was so incensed that she threatened to sue Universal Pictures because she was receiving at least 20 calls an hour; another man in Manchester, England, received upwards of 70 calls a day.
In subsequent releases, the film uses—you guessed it—a 555 number.
Another famous phone number continues to aggravate its owners: 867-5309.
In 1981, Tommy Tutone released their most famous hit, “877-5309/Jenny.” The casualties quickly began rolling in.
One junior high school received several hundred phone calls daily asking for “Jenny.” A 24-year-old administrative assistant received “hundreds of obscene phone calls.” A Chicago woman gave her phone number to a local radio station, WLS, which logged 22,000 calls in a single four-day period.
“When I heard we nearly melted a phone wire in Chicago, it made my day,” said Tommy Heath of Tommy Tutone.
As for the real Jenny—and yes, there was a real Jenny—she disconnected her phone (ignoring the lyrics of the song, which specifically ask her not to change her number).
“Friends of mine wrote her name and number on a men’s room wall at a bar,” said Jim Keller, the band’s guitarist and the song’s writer. “I called her on a dare, and we dated for a while. I haven’t talked with her since the song became a hit, but I hear she thinks I’m a real jerk for writing it.”
Granted, Keller didn’t give out Jenny’s area code, but he could have at least used a fake set of digits. Then again, “555-5555” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
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