Is it illegal to acquire a phone number which your former company discarded, with the intent of providing similar services to those still calling it?

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Is it illegal to acquire a phone number which your former company discarded, with the intent of providing similar services to those still calling it?

I left a company 6 months ago after which they moved offices and changed their business phone numbers. I am now working as an independent contractor in a similar business. I was contacted by a former client who informed me my old direct office line was disconnected. I acquired the phone number and had the additional line routed to my cell (which I use for biz). My ex-employer became aware of this and sent a self-written cease and desist letter accusing me of ID fraud, theft and money damages; with threats of legal action. Turns out they had an old 800 number which they were still paying for

Asked on April 24, 2012 under Business Law, California

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The mere acquisition of a discarded telephone number by your former employer is not in and of itself improper from a civil or criminal nature. However, usurping contacts of clients of your former employer through the telephone number that you acquired to directly compete with him or her could be defined as an unfair business or trade practice under your state's statutes on the subject.

The facts that you have written about are in the "grey" area with respct to what you have done is improper or not. There is nothing improper for a client of your former employer to contact you about doing work for him or her. You did legally obtain the telephone number that you have written about, however the clients calling on this number most likely are calling with the intent of contacting your former employer, not you about providing services.


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