Phone Exchange for US and Canada – A Deep Dive
DOTS Phone Exchange is Service Objects’ entry level reverse look-up API. It packs a lot of value, providing carrier data, line type, porting and location information for numbers around the world.
This blog focuses on one of the main operations of Phone Exchange: GetExchangeInfo, which focuses on providing the best data for every number in the United States and Canada.
Another operation, GetInternationalExchangeInfo, covers the entire world and is critical in its own right, but will not be covered in this blog. While we do not have the breadth of data for the rest of the world that we do for the United States and Canada, this operation provides a lot of value in validation, foreign number structure and location data as well as provider and line type in most cases.
Now, let’s look at the data returned by GetExchangeInfo:
Phone provider data
The United States and Canada follow the North American Numbering Plan (NANP). NANP divides large territories up into numbering plan areas (NPAS), better known as area codes. The telephone number is the 7 digit number that follows that, separated into a three digit central office code and a 4 digit station number. 20 Countries and 5 US Territories actually participate in NANP, with most of the other countries being Caribbean ones.
The GetExchangeInfo operation actually covers ALL of these countries, however we have more detailed information on things like porting for numbers in the United States and Canada.
The other operation GetInternationalExchangeInfo actually covers a few extra data points and may ultimately be more useful for non-US and Canadian numbers.
So, the first 6 digits of a NANP phone number help route the phone number to the correct location, and the first 6-7 digits also help determine who the provider is and what the expected line type will be. Phone numbers are divided into 10,000 number blocks (by the first 6 digits) and assigned to a carrier. Those 10,000 number blocks can be further subdivided into 1,000 number blocks (first 7 digits) and assigned by the carrier to another carrier. Individual phone numbers can also be ported to different carriers or even line types.
For example, a line owner might want to switch from Verizon to T-Mobile as their carrier, or a landline owner might be getting rid of their landline and wants to use their landline number as their new wireless number (this is unusual but possible). Phone Exchange keeps track of all that information for you: the provider we return is not necessarily the block owner, but rather will be the current provider and line type of that particular number.
So, what is returned? We return basic provider information, including the line type, porting information, telephone company name, the city, state and country information belonging to the current provider, the time zone the number is located in, and any SMS/MMS addresses we were able to associate to a wireless provider. We also return latitude and longitude coordinates associated with the area of the provider, which are normally associated with the given city but can be a smaller area as well.
‘Line type’ is one of the more critical results and consists of either Landline, Wireless or VOIP (voice over IP). ‘PortedInfo’ contains information about the original provider and block owner as well as the date of the latest porting event. For example, my own personal phone number reports my current provider as T-Mobile and the block owner as T-Mobile while also being “ported.” Why? Because I had originally signed up with T-Mobile but in the last 15 years have bounced around to Verizon and AT&T before re-signing with T-Mobile again recently.
Finally, there is a Notes section that has a lot of interesting details about the number, which we will look at in the next section.
Notes are a critical part of the GetExchangeInfo operation, and range from interesting informational notes to potential indicators of fraud. Notes are simple: if the note shows up then the condition corresponding to it is found to be true.
Below is a detailed description of all of the Notes currently found in GetExchangeInfo (more may be added in the future):
- IsPorted – A porting event has occurred on this number. It is possible to go from Landline to Wireless and vice versa, although that is uncommon. However, this is one of the more important results of Phone Exchange since it may lead to a change in line type.
- IsLandline, IsWireless, IsVOIP or IsUnknownLineType – These indicate which type of line we found associated with the number. All good numbers should fit into one of these.
- IsGoogleVoiceNumber, IsSkypeNumber, IsPortableVOIP or IsPossiblePortableVOIP – These all indicate a phone line that is NOT associated with a physical address. They are less regulated, can be used to mask an actual phone line and can be very disposable. While not necessarily bad, these are popular numbers for both fraudsters and scammers for their ability to hide the user’s true identify and location.
- IsGarbage and IsPossibleGarbage – These flags indicate potential bad numbers that may otherwise fail through normal means. These flags are associated with identifying repeated numbers or patterns that seem unlikely to be associated with a real number. The normal validation of checking for a valid provider block will often catch these as well as most cases of someone randomly typing in a phone number, but it is still very possible for a seemingly bad number to slip in via a totally valid area code. Some consideration can also be given to what is known about the line owner. For example: (805) 966-6666 is a valid phone number for a local taxicab company, but highly unlikely to belong to Bob who is signing up for a credit card. The suggestion would be to use these to flag potential bad data and can be useful in a system that is also looking for other risk factors as well.
- IsTollFreeNumber – A useful note for identifying if the provided number is a Toll Free Access number. Very possibly valid, however like previous flags, very unlikely to belong to a particular user and certainly not to a residential one. A business would much more likely use a normal number as a contact point. Depending on the source of the data collected, most cases of finding a toll free number will not be good ones.
- IsIncompleteNumber – Indicates that the number given was not a complete number. The service can be used to validate partial numbers of 6 or 7 digits to identify a potential provider. However, this is uncommon and would not be recommended as porting information is lost as well. A 7 digit number without the area code is also challenging, as the contact can change while travelling and a new local result may be created. This operation does not really support this case, and this flag can be used to quickly ID these sorts of situations.
- IsUnknownProvider – This is uncommon, but we were not able to associate the number to a provider.
What can you do with the service?
There are many potential uses for this service. Here are some of the ways to use the service:
- Weeding out bad data at the point of entry on a webform. Use the service to identify and remove numbers that error out on the provider check (i.e. they are bad). Or combine this with other conditions such as not allowing toll free or portable VOIP numbers through.
- Removing bad data that has found its way into a CRM or database. Apply similar rules as the point of entry webform to also find and remove bad or problematic numbers from your CRM or database.
- Using LineType to identify potential TCPA compliance issues. Use both Line Type and porting information to identify wireless numbers, including those that have been ported from an expected landline to a wireless number. The burden is on the caller to know a landline number has been ported to a wireless one and TCPA rules only give a 15 day grace period to identify the change.
- Using location data for mapping. Wireless numbers can move around but landlines will stay in the same area. Still, on a large level, it can be very useful to map out the locations of a large number of phone numbers. Do you own a chain store and want to figure out what locations may be good to expand to? Take your online customer list and map out their locations to see if there are any obvious spots where a new location might be a good fit.
- Using location data for validation against other points. Match up location data from other sources such as addresses, IP Addresses or others to see if the data is matching up.
- Identifying potential frauds in leads. Flag incoming leads with useful notes such as IsGoogleVoiceNumber, IsSkypeNumber, IsTollFreeNumber, and IsGarbage to quickly flag high risk numbers as potentially bad.
Hopefully, this blog provides a deep understanding of the data being returned in DOTS Phone Exchange for US and Canadian phone numbers, as well as some of the many uses for the service as well.
Please contact us if you have any more questions!