What is an Unpublished Phone Number?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2019
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An unpublished or unlisted phone number is a telephone number that is not made publicly available in phone listings. As a general rule, customers must specifically request that their phone number not be published, and they may be required to pay a small fee. People who receive calls from an unpublished phone number can find out who owns the number, but it may take some work; several companies offer research services that include discovering the identity behind an unlisted phone number.

Most people get an unpublished phone number for privacy reasons. Those who are prominent in the public eye often prefer that their numbers not be listed to avoid harassment and frequent phone calls. Politicians and celebrities commonly have unlisted numbers so that they can remain unmolested at home. Others may be concerned about personal safety, choosing to leave their numbers unpublished to avoid stalkers or other unwanted attention.

The disadvantage, of course, is that it can be challenging for people to contact a person whose number isn't publicly available. As a general rule, people who choose not to publish their numbers actively seek this, and they tend to guard their phone number closely, controlling access to it to ensure that it does not end up in the wrong hands. For example, politicians will print their office numbers on business cards and stationery, but not their home numbers, and people who have information about an unpublished numbers are usually sternly told not to pass it on.


There are more sinister reasons for having an unpublished phone number. People who use their phones to harass people may request unlisted numbers so that when their victims look the number up, they will not be able to figure out who owns it. Many companies also routinely use unpublished numbers to make it difficult for people to contact certain individuals within the company, which can be a source of frustration to consumers.

Some companies use unpublished numbers to provide special perks and services to clients. For example, some restaurants have a private reservation line for very important patrons, ensuring that these patrons get prompt service and a reservation when they need it. Others use these numbers to allow people to skip the queue of service personnel, getting immediate assistance with a problem or issue.

When an unlisted number is leaked, it can be both disastrous and irritating. Many websites are not afraid to publish private numbers when they are able to track them down, allowing people to do things like call celebrities on their cell phones or to contact politicians at home. When someone has gone to the trouble of obtaining an unpublished phone number, the leaking of that number will usually cause them to abandon it and request a new one.


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Discuss this Article

Post 7

Legally speaking, paying for a number not to be published in a telephone directory only extends to the publishers of that particular phone directory. They can't stop other companies from obtaining that same information from public sources, like city directories or tax assessor websites. The fact that your "unpublished" phone number appeared in a different directory does not necessarily mean the original directory publishers are liable for damages caused by the disclosure. If you paid them a fee to keep your phone number out of their phone book and it didn't appear, then they have fulfilled their end of the contract.

Post 6

@GreenWeaver- It's possible for telemarketers to call unpublished numbers because many of them use an automatic dialer that generates every possible phone number in that area. The machine might start out with "555-OOOO" and then keep going up (0001, 0002, etc.) until it hits a legitimate number. It doesn't know if the number is published or unpublished, just that it's active.

I used to work for a telemarketing company that used an autodialer, and I'd end up spending my day terminating calls made to businesses or government offices or whatever. Our only focus was on private homes.

Post 5

Phone companies sell your unlisted number to people who have caller ID. I am currently suing my provider Centurylink. Just look inside your phone book; they even brag about it. So what the hell am I paying for?

Post 4

We paid for an unlisted number with our small local phone company, but it got published in another company (white pages) anyway. What can we do?

Post 3

GreenWeaver- I agree that telemarketers can be a problem and having an unpublished telephone number does not make a difference because they will find an unpublished phone number and use it just the same.

Your privacy is not all that guarded. I like the idea of the Do Not Call list and it will make a difference in the amount of telemarketing calls you receive.

I know that there is a reversed phone number in which you can type in a phone number and then get information on where the phone number originated from including the address.

This way you can look up the name of the business along with the address. You can also lookup additional phone numbers.

I do not think that people that have unlisted numbers are trying to hide something. I have excellent credit and just don’t want to be bothered with nuisance calls.

Post 2

People that have unpublished numbers do not want to be called at all hours of the day for telemarketing pitches. I for one have an unpublished number for that reason.

I like many other Americans hate receiving telephone solicitations especially at dinner time. But remarkably having an unpublished number still allows marketers to find an unpublished phone number.

I don’t know how they actually do an unpublished phone number search. But what I do know is I placed my number on the Do Not Call list.

You have to renew the list every year otherwise the calls start coming in. You can register multiple phone numbers not just your landline. You have to go to do not and register. It only takes a minute to register, but it relieves a lot of aggravation.

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