KPRC 2 Investigates surprise phone number switch

Customer loses number after using it for 26 years

These days, wherever you go you can take your phone number with you, even if you switch phone carriers. It’s pretty common and an easy way to keep up with old contacts. That’s why a Cypress man was shocked when his phone company disconnected his number and reassigned it to someone else. The number is essential for his business. He called our KPRC 2 Investigates team for help.

CYPRESS, Texas – These days, wherever you go you can take your phone number with you, even if you switch phone carriers. It’s pretty common and an easy way to keep up with old contacts. That’s why a Cypress man was shocked when his phone company disconnected his number and reassigned it to someone else. The number is essential for his business. He called our KPRC 2 Investigates team for help.

Important business phone number suddenly gone

Sam Ghalichi has had the same phone for 26 years! It was a landline he used as a business number and when he no longer needed a physical office or landline, AT&T let him transfer that number to his personal cell phone for a monthly fee. That’s why he was shocked to learn his number was disconnected.

Man fights to get (business) phone number back after it's mistakenly given away to someone else. KPRC2 Investigates how the 3G switch complicated the process. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Ghalichi didn’t realize the number was disconnected until his business accounts stopped calling. Then he called the number to check and this is what he heard:

“We’re sorry. You have reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service.”

The recording was odd to Ghalichi because AT&T was still charging him $28.44 monthly to transfer his business calls to his cell phone.

“What happened? What happened to my number?” said Ghalichi.

Loss of number connected with 3G shutdown

It’s what he and his wife asked AT&T. Representatives told them AT&T disconnected the number back in May when it shut down its 3G network. Any lines that hadn’t been upgraded before that time were canceled. It’s a huge problem for his business.

“If I lose it, I don’t have any contact with my customers. I never call my customers. They call me,” he explained.

Ghalichi was willing to pay to get his number back so an AT&T rep told him they could make that happen. First, AT&T told the couple if they switched their internet, cable and cell service to AT&T they could get the old number back. Then they told them they needed their old Southwestern Bell account number associated with the phone number. They found a Southwestern Bell bill from 1996.

Man fights to get (business) phone number back after it's mistakenly given away to someone else. KPRC2 Investigates how the 3G switch complicated the process. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

But then they were asked to go into a physical AT&T store. After all that, AT&T told him it had already reassigned his number for someone to use as MIFI or internet service.

“This just doesn’t make sense. They took my number, gave it to somebody,” said Ghalichi.

When we reached out to AT&T, within 48 hours the company gave Ghalichi his number back as a landline. So he can get back to business and make sure his customers can call him.

AT&T gave customers warnings before 3G changes

An AT&T spokesperson told me that the company reached out to Ghalichi and all customers for about two years, by mail, email, and text messages to let them know about the 3G changes and to offer free new devices that would work once the 3G network was shutdown. Ghalichi said he never received those.

If you have a number ported or transferred, you may want to call that number to ensure it is still working. AT&T spells out FAQs about the 3G switch here.


AT&T statement:

“We are working to resolve Ms. Ghalichi’s concerns and are doing our best to get her number back. However, her account with us was cancelled because the line was not upgraded in advance of our 3G network shutdown earlier this year. We reached out to this customer, and all customers, for the better part of two years -- sending numerous communications via direct mail, bill messaging, emails and text messages to help them upgrade, including offering free new devices. Unfortunately, Ms. Ghalichi did not upgrade her service.”

AT&T sent this additional information:

“When an account is canceled, if a customer doesn’t contact us within 60 days, the number is reissued to another customer. Unfortunately, the customer did not contact us within that 60-day period.

Like others in the industry, we ended 3G service so that we could redeploy underutilized and less efficient 3G spectrum to provide upgraded next generation technologies and services to our customers.”


About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.