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How Do You Handle Deactivated Phone Numbers?



In the video above, Tatango CEO Derek Johnson answers the question, “How do you handle deactivated phone numbers?” Prefer to read instead? No problem, please see the post below. You can also find answers to all of your SMS marketing questions in our Q&A video library; click here to browse.

What Is a Deactivated Phone Number?

A deactivated phone number occurs when a mobile phone user decides to cancel their phone plan or subscription with a wireless carrier. For the consumer, this isn’t an issue, but it can create a tricky situation for SMS marketers and brands.

Let’s use an example phone number like 425-425-4254. While using this phone number, let’s say that a consumer opted into several SMS marketing campaigns. Will that number still receive SMS messages from those campaigns after it’s been deactivated, reactivated, and given to someone else?

What Happens if SMS Providers Don’t Handle Deactivated Phone Numbers Correctly?

Depending on the carrier, a deactivated phone number will be reactivated in 2 to 60 days, and assigned to someone else. This is where the tricky situation presents itself. If SMS providers don’t handle deactivated phone numbers correctly, then a phone number that has opted into a text message program will continue to receive messages, even when it’s been reactivated as someone else’s phone number.

The new owner of the phone number hasn’t opted-in to receive those SMS marketing messages, and because consent is based on the person and not by phone number, the new owner hasn’t agreed to receive those messages. As a result, the minute the phone number is reactivated for a new user, consent is broken, and the brand sending the SMS messages is at risk of a TCPA violation.

How to Check if Your SMS Provider Is Handling Deactivated Phone Numbers Properly

The first step is to make sure they’re getting, and using, a deactivation report. A deactivation report is a report from the wireless carriers given to SMS providers that details a list of deactivated phone numbers.

Since some wireless carriers keep a phone number deactivated for as little as two days, this report is updated every 24 hours. When an SMS provider receives the deactivated report, the SMS provider has to remove and unsubscribe those phone numbers from the SMS marketing database. It’s best to do this nightly. If this process is completed every 30 or 60 days, the SMS provider will send text message spam to people who haven’t opted in, putting the brand who is marketing to consumers at risk.

It’s essential that your SMS provider gets deactivation reports from the major wireless carriers every 24 hours, and removes all of the deactivated phone numbers from the SMS database, so that your brand doesn’t message those people in the future. Fortunately, at Tatango we take this very seriously. To talk with our SMS marketing experts about safeguarding your text message marketing campaigns, contact us here.

And to learn about ported phone numbers, watch our video about it here.

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