What is an Unlisted Phone Number?

J. Beam

An unlisted phone number is a residential phone number that is not published in any phone directory or phone book provided to the general public. Since it would be irrational for a business to have an unpublished number, it applies primarily to residential phone service customers who do not wish for their phone number to be available to the public. While any individual can request that his or her phone number be unlisted, it is a practice common for people who work with the general public, such as doctors, lawyers, politicians, and school teachers.

Doctors commonly choose to have an unlisted phone number.
Doctors commonly choose to have an unlisted phone number.

Prior to the development of more advanced phone technologies such as caller identification, there was no charge to have an unlisted phone number. However, most home phone service providers now charge a small fee for this service because of the complication that it causes to maintain separation in their large databases. An unlisted phone number will not be published in public phone directories or books and will not show up on caller ID displays. Further, it cannot be obtained by calling directory information.

Obtaining an unlisted phone number may help prevent telemarketing calls.
Obtaining an unlisted phone number may help prevent telemarketing calls.

As with all information, phone numbers can be used for negative and illegal actions. Many companies offer to sell unpublished and unlisted phone number information to legal professionals, businesses, and individuals. For residential customers, phone services like privacy manager make it impossible for people with unlisted numbers to call a phone line with privacy services installed without first identifying themselves. While it is virtually impossible to keep a phone number completely private, having it unlisted can significantly cut down on telemarketing phone calls, prank calls, and public invasion.

Obtaining an unlisted phone number may help prevent phone call harassment.
Obtaining an unlisted phone number may help prevent phone call harassment.

While anyone with existing phone service can switch a published number to an unlisted phone number, it often makes sense to acquire a new phone number before making it unlisted. Phone companies may work with consumers if there have been problems, such as harassment, that violate the law and help them to acquire a new, unlisted number if necessary.

Unlisted phone numbers are not published in public directories or phone books.
Unlisted phone numbers are not published in public directories or phone books.

Information on how an unlisted phone number may impact a person's phone service can usually be obtained from a local phone company.

Having an unlisted number can cut down on the number of prank calls that a person receives.
Having an unlisted number can cut down on the number of prank calls that a person receives.

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Discussion Comments


I don't understand why everyone has a problem with how the phone companies operate.

First, you don't own your phone number; you're renting it.

Second, who cares whether your number is listed or published or whatever else? No phone company has stated that they won't release your address and phone number, which is enough to at least spam you with annoying phone calls.

Third, you can't entirely blame the phone companies for your information getting out. Most people willingly give their address and phone number out to an enormous number of companies. Who is to say who is selling your information?

Now there is no question that paying to not publish some personal information is a bit counterintuitive. In the rest of our daily lives, paying for a service not to be performed is considered criminal.

To the OP, your theory on why they charge to unlist numbers is just not correct.

First, the entire concept of any database is to make the management of large volumes of data easier. And two, it's called a revenue stream and, if you haven't noticed, everybody is doing them to death these days.


Centurylink charges $3.50 a month for unpublished numbers, then if you look in the front of their book, it says if you buy caller ID they will give you the named and numbers of unlisted and unpublished numbers. I am seeing them soon. Wish me luck.


People don't realize that when they are paying for an unlisted phone number, that all they are paying for is not to have it listed in the "white pages" that the phone company distribute for free. The phone company sells all their listed and unlisted numbers to marketing companies.

And don't think that being on the Do Not Call Registry makes a difference, because the phone company doesn't care; they aren't the ones calling you. It's up to the marketing companies to decide whether or not its OK to call you.


Phone companies should never publish people's phone numbers without their permission! These are days of stolen identities and here the phone companies give addresses and phone numbers out to the world! There should be a law against this!


The FCC is who mandates that all numbers be reported to a directory, and if people do not want their numbers reported there is a fee that varies by state and company, depending on how they are tariffed with the PUC.

Also, non-listed means simply that that the phone number is not in the phone book. It is still available through directory assistance and shows up on caller-id. A non-published means that the number will not be in the phone book, directory assistance, or show up on caller id.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if you enter your name and non-published phone number somewhere online, there are companies out there that gather this information and when someone does a name search, they can access your non published number.


I don't think phone companies should charge for unpublished phone numbers. And yes they can do something about it. They just don't want to.


Agree with the statement about ongoing extortion for charging for non-published number. it needs to be made illegal for the phone company to force consumers to pay to keep their private information private.


The phone companies are guilty of ongoing extortion! By charging for an unpublished/unlisted number they are basically telling you “either you pay us an additional $5.50 per month or we’ll tell everyone where you live!”

Think about it; they have absolutely no more of a right to do that than the kid who delivers your newspapers or any other subscribed service you may have.

Whether you do or do not want your name, address and phone number published should simply be a check box on your phone bill. It should not involve an additional charge.

They have absolutely no right to reveal your personal information to the world, let alone extort “hush money” from you!


So, is there nothing I can do to ensure that my phone number/cell numbers are not published anywhere? It sounds like a phone company scam, and yet, I'd really like to remain unpublished as much as possible.

In addition, when "unpublished numbers" are googled, a truckload of websites came up that promise to find any unpublished number. Is this true?


Ha! Unpublished phone number service is just a way for the phone company to make money. Our phone number was published in a non-Verizon phone book and the company tells me there's nothing they can do because *they* still aren't publishing it. Also shows up periodically on caller ID but there is nothing they can do about that either!!! *And* the fee is going up from $2.75 a month to $3.50 so I'm paying even more for this!!

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