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How can I grab my old cell phone number?
January 26, 2009 6:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm losing my cell phone number of 12 years to my employer when I leave the company this week. As policy, they will not allow me to keep it but wondered if anyone can provide some help on how to snag it from AT&T once the company cancels it and it's free to be re-assigned.

A previous user had a question about this and most suggestions were to work with HR and that won't work for me. The number is currently with AT&T and I intend on keeping it with them so this should not be a problem. The customer rep I talked to today seemed to think that once the number is cancelled, I could call in before the 60 day hold period was up and grab it. Does anyone have experience with this or AT&T's process?
I'm not trying to steal customers...just thought it would prevent me from learning a new number and save the next guy from getting lots of calls he doesn't want.
posted by rholly to Work & Money (16 answers total)
 
AT&T is pretty bad in the customer service department. Let me be your first "unfortunately you probably can't/that probably won't work".
posted by aleahey at 6:57 PM on January 26, 2009


I worked at a comp-any that did not put the numbers back into the general pool, but rather kept them for the next person in that slot.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:08 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I bet your company will hold onto the number - we always have to avoid cancellation fees etc.
posted by robinpME at 7:26 PM on January 26, 2009


One thing you COULD do -- though it's a little borderline, ethically -- is just go ahead and start a new contract with another provider and lie to them, claiming that you've gotten the OK from your employer to take the numer. The new provider will need the account number and the name on the account, I think. Maybe one other detail. If that all matches up, they'll port the number over. This generally begins happening within minutes, and within 24 hours (sometimes MUCH sooner), the entire thing is ported over AND is in your name.

Your employer won't know that your phone (i.e., the one that you use but is their property) is dead, because -- duh, it's in your hands. And by the time you give it back to them and have left the company, too late. THey may get hit with an ETF, but . . . fuckit, that's not your problem. And besides, many companies tend to have volume deals where they don't get with an ETF in cases like that.

Like I said, not entirely ethical. But it'll work. You can determine whether it's worth doing or not.
posted by CommonSense at 7:29 PM on January 26, 2009


Ask if you can do an assumption of liability for the line--they don't get smacked with an ETF, you get your line.

As far as lying in a port-out? Guess what....if the company contests it, then you'd be looking at possible fraud issues for having misrepresented yourself.
posted by polexxia at 7:30 PM on January 26, 2009


As far as lying in a port-out? Guess what....if the company contests it, then you'd be looking at possible fraud issues for having misrepresented yourself.

Oh come on. You really think the company is going to hire lawyers to get back a single phone number?
posted by delmoi at 7:36 PM on January 26, 2009


I recently lost my job and was able to keep my number. If I remember correctly, I had to give AT&T the company's account number (and possibly tax number, I can't remember) and they had to contact their AT&T rep to "release" the number. It was my understanding that they had to release AT&T from any responsibility if I kept doing business as the company (the reason companies keep numbers). After that it only took about 4 hours to get my new phone activated. So, from my experience, there's no sneaky way to keep your number.

The customer service rep you spoke with probably just wants you to sign a 2 year contract with a "temporary" number. When it turns out you can't get your old number you're already locked in. I made at least 6 calls to AT&T before I spoke to someone who knew what they were talking about so be cautious of anyone telling you there's nothing to it. I would suggest calling AT&T and telling them you're ready to switch right now, then ask them what you need to do.

You don't state why you're leaving your job but if there's any severance pay involved or if they may need to contact you with questions after you're gone, try to negotiate for your number. It might be policy but it costs them nothing to give it to you, especially if they need you to sign a non-disclosure agreement or something. If you're leaving on bad terms then you can probably kiss your number goodbye. In that case, I would get a new phone now so you can begin giving out the new number before your old phone is cut off.
posted by bda1972 at 8:16 PM on January 26, 2009


Tangentially, my company went out of business & before they did I transferred my company cell # to a new private account in my name. Since I was the manager in charge of the account this occurred without a hitch. But it was a business account (with ATT), and ever since I have to contact ATT's business rep rather than the normal consumer rep, since that is how my # is listed with ATT. This has carried on from the original ATT, through Cingular, and now back to ATT. It has actually been a good thing as my issues have always been resolved quickly. YMMV.
posted by TDIpod at 9:20 PM on January 26, 2009


Oh come on. You really think the company is going to hire lawyers to get back a single phone number?

Probably depends on the company. I wouldn't try this with, say, the CIA.
posted by Precision at 9:21 PM on January 26, 2009


Also, if you can't get the old # you could try and swing a deal to set up automatic call forwarding from your old # to your new # for some set time period (2 weeks/ 30 days?). This is simple for the phone company to do, especially if you stick with ATT, but depending on the contract there may be a fee. Check with the account manager or with the ATT rep.
posted by TDIpod at 9:30 PM on January 26, 2009


Oh come on. You really think the company is going to hire lawyers to get back a single phone number?


Depends... how many of our clients have "his" number?
Not insinuating anything, just saying the company could have something like that in mind.
posted by Iteki at 10:35 PM on January 26, 2009


Like I said, not entirely ethical. But it'll work. You can determine whether it's worth doing or not.

Not entirely ethical? I'd say it's exactly the definition of unethical. Your claim that companies don't deal with ETFs is also unreasonable. I work for a 200+ company that gets only minimal discounts from Verizon and gets nothing special in the way of contract terms. You likely would cause the company to incur an ETF by moving the number, and in many cases will get the company quite upset about it in the process.

Your business phone number is not your number at all. It's very important to maintain relationships with customers throughout employee replacements. This is much the same as your company e-mail address, which will certainly not be going with you and will likely be forwarded to someone else in the company after you leave.
posted by odinsdream at 7:28 AM on January 27, 2009


the number has nothing to do with the contract. they could ask for a new number on it, they just don't want to help you out because they are afraid you might use this number to pose as an employee ('he's calling from that number, so he must still be there') or something else. also know that once the number expires it ends up often locked for six months until it's available to the general public again.

if you do have access to the account information I would suggest you do follow the route of porting the number over to a new account/contract and assigning a different number to this one. tell the customer service rep you are leaving the company and if they help you get the number onto another -personal- bill and not terminate this account they will have one more sign-up. since there is money riding on this for them they'll probably try finding a way.

bonus points for you if you find some at&t member on a phone forum who can outline you how they can do it. I don't know their protocols and we all know their training isn't very good, so the clearer you are on what they need to do, the less of a chance you'll hear 'it can't be done' when it in fact can.
posted by krautland at 7:35 AM on January 27, 2009


Why on earth would you use a company cell phone number for personal reasons?

This would be a good time to have get own personal cell number, because:

a) a company-owned cell phone shouldn't have been used for personal reasons in the first place, much less for twelve years (!!!)

b) if you weren't using it for personal reasons, why would you need it if you're leaving the company?

You're in an unfortunate quandary, but an entirely preventable one. Don't use business accounts for personal reasons, if that's what you mean by the new guy getting calls he doesn't want.
posted by trotter at 9:06 AM on January 27, 2009


"also know that once the number expires it ends up often locked for six months until it's available to the general public again. "

According to the AT&T rep, the waiting period is 60 days. She implied that I should be able to grab it before it goes out to someone and that was the angle I was using but was curious if it worked for anyone else.

I don't intend to try anything unethical as the number is not worth *that* much to me.
posted by rholly at 9:43 AM on January 27, 2009


Why on earth would you use a company cell phone number for personal reasons?

It was allowed since I was on the road so much and I even paid $10/month for this privilege. My wife's phone was also on AT&T so calls home were free. Also, I had no desire to keep two separate phones with me at all times.

Ironically, my new position will likely require me to have a separate personal cell from work and that's when I thought having the old number would be nice.
posted by rholly at 9:56 AM on January 27, 2009


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