Ever Googled for an area code after seeing mysterious number on your call display? Darren Barefoot reports receiving telemarketing calls from a number that starts with 179. He’s traced the call to a security system call centre. But, if you try to look up the 179 area code in Google, you won’t find anything. That’s because many North American telcos are allowing clients to choose their own area codes, including 179. For example, Vonage and Verizon let VOIP clients choose their own area codes. That means telemarketers could be calling from anywhere — even overseas.

For businesses, this is the telecom equivalent to having a virtual office, PO box, or registered address at a lawyer’s office. When you can choose your own area code, you can influence the people you’re calling. Not impressed with a Winnipeg area code that signals “telemarketer”? Choose 416 for Toronto. Think clients won’t be impressed by calls from Jersey? Choose 212 for New York City.

Of course, this also opens the door to abuse. Customers will need to be more vigilant with telemarketers. Just because a call looks like it came from New York City doesn’t mean it is. You never know who’s on the other end.

(c) 2005 by Andrea Coutu. Vancouver Marketing Consultant. All rights reserved.