When it comes to cell phone recycling, the majority of people assume the term means taking old cell phones and recycling the material that they are made up of. And indeed, most of the time it does – but there is another type of cell phone recycling, namely the recycling of old cellular phone numbers.
As the number of cell phone users grows and grows, it is increasingly unlikely that your new cell phone number is unique. Chances are, it has in fact been used before, on a used cellular phone. With statistics showing that just one phone company in the United States, Vodacom, recycles around a million phone numbers from old cell phones, those are pretty good odds. Unfortunately for consumers, there can be a downside to this different form of cell phone recycling, as customer Geoff Neden discovered when he lost several hundred rands worth of airtime on his MTN pay as you go account. “I have a smallholding in the Tankwa Karoo,” Neden says. “I keep a dedicated SIM card for when I am there, which I top up with airtime to around R400 in case of emergencies.” Nemen received a message from a service he was not subscribed to telling how he was subscribed to them. Believing it to be some kind of scam, he deleted the message and thought no more about it – only to be losing rands at a record rate for calls he had not made. Finally, Neder approached MTN, who found his cell phone number had been recycled and falsely charged. It seems that these days, even used cell phone numbers are themselves considered a “national resource”.