While almost everyone wants to keep their old phone numbers, sometimes during the excitement of signing up for a new plan means that you forget to organize the old number to come with you. So how do you get your old phone number back?
You will want to contact the telco to see if the number can still be reassigned and is still available. Try and get your hands on the old SIM and other documents to prove your ownership of the old number.
I’ll take you through the dos and don’ts when trying to recover an old number as well as some handy things to be aware of in 2022 to ensure your best chances of getting that coveted old number back and working again.
Methods for Reactivating an Old Number
One of the most common reasons a number gets deactivated is due to an outstanding balance on the account.
Merely paying this outstanding balance will unlock the number so that you can get it back. This is one of the tactics that telecommunication companies (telco) will use to get you to pay your bill.
Another similar reason is that if you do not use the phone or number for an amount of time, generally at least 6 months, the telco can deactivate it to prevent unused numbers from clogging up their system.
To reactivate an old number, one of the key things is proving your ownership of that old number. If you still have the SIM or any receipts around the purchase, this will be a great link to prove you were issued the number in the first place.
The website for a telco can be all you really need to get an old number back, but you’ll need two key pieces of information, the SIM identification number, and mobile IMEI digits.
The 19-digit identification number is on the SIM card. You can find your phone IMEI number by going into the Settings app and looking for an option called ‘About this Phone’ or ‘Device Information’. This method will show all of the information about your phone.
With some phone models, if you can access the internals by removing the cover and battery, the IMEI will be printed on a barcode underneath where the battery sits.
Try and gather any other account information like a membership number or account name, and then try going through the activation flow on the telco’s website.
Another method is porting, which generally involves contacting the old (and if applicable, new) telco and telling them of your intentions. They can perform some checks on their end to see if it’s eligible, and at this stage, you may need to prove ownership of the number.
This enables the number to be activated in your name and you can continue with your old number now activated with a telco.
In order to maximize your chances of getting a number back, try not to cancel old services before setting up a new one. As part of the transfer process, telcos will ask for an old number to allow you to continue on the number.
However, if you’ve already canceled the old service, there’s sometimes not a lot a telco can do, especially if the number is in quarantine or already reassigned.
Instances Where You Can’t Get an Old Number Back
It’s worth considering situations when you won’t be able to get an old number back.
The most common situation is that the number has been reassigned to someone else. This is common in situations where you change providers, as the new provider may give you a new number.
If a specific amount of time passes, your old number will go back into the pool of available numbers to be given to a different customer. Sometimes there will be a period of quarantine where your old number is not available to anyone for 12 months.
Many rules at a teleco may prevent you from getting an old number back, so it’s worth checking out the policies first before committing to get the number back. For example, many telcos won’t allow a SIM to be activated twice.
One particularly annoying situation is a replacement SIM mixup. Someone can order a replacement SIM for innocent purposes, only to receive a SIM from the telco which has your number on it. Once registered to them, it is almost impossible to get it back.
If you haven’t used the number for a long time, generally anything longer than 12 months, you can be almost certain that the number has long since been reassigned. It is still worth checking with the original telco, or if they no longer exist, look up if a merger occurred.
If a telco buys a defunct telco, they’ll likely get their customer lists and numbers, so try contacting them in this situation to try and work out what happened to your number.
A rare situation can be that a number gets banned for fraud or abuse, and this is a ban at the SIM level. There is not much to be done in this situation, even if you’re not the person who did the fraud originally.
Checking if a Number Is Disconnected
A simple test to check what the issue is with a number is to try calling it. If the phone rings and then goes to a voicemail, it’s likely at least one part of the account is still active and there is a chance of recovering the number.
If instead it does not ring or goes to an automated message, that is a big sign that the number is disconnected, in quarantine, or otherwise inaccessible.