It's always bothered me that US TV shows invariably use 555 in telephone numbers, which makes them obviously fake, whereas in the UK phone numbers always look real, down to correct area code and a pseudo-random 'actual' number.

Prompted by Call Sauls phone number seems real? what differentiates this generic 555 [which I've been informed is usually a type of 'public service' area code] from the 'real' numbers we see in UK shows?


1 Answer 1


I'm setting this out as merely the first answer, but I'd be interested in the rest of the story, from a US or other international perspective...

I did some very quick research which gave me this official link to the UK's phone authority, Ofcom, listing the numbers which can be used for TV drama etc to give 'real looking' numbers.

Telephone numbers for use in TV and radio drama programmes

Ofcom continues to receive requests for geographic numbers to be used for TV and radio drama programmes.

Ofcom has therefore set out below a range of geographic telephone numbers that are recommended for TV and radio drama purposes (1000 numbers within each geographic area code).

For example, for a London number, you can use the real area code, 020, then any number between 7946 0000 & 7946 0999 [so if you were very picky you'd notice you can only have a Central London number, not an Outer London one] but it does overall mean you can use very realistic numbers without accidentally giving out an actual real one.

I'm surprised the US doesn't appear to have a similar arrangement.

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    That's a really interesting idea! I know that it wouldn't have worked here in the US in the past as we've had bouts of running out of legit numbers to give to real paying customers and having to create new area codes, and overlay area codes. It was a real mess towards the end of the 90s to early 2000s. Now that everyone has a mobile phone and area codes are relatively meaningless, people care less about it. Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 3:30

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