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Getting started with toll-free verification

Wireless carriers are making an effort to stop spam and requiring all message senders to verify their brand and campaigns. Updated guidelines have been introduced for toll-free text numbers. Read on to see how we're keeping verification simple and free for our customers.

At this time, toll-free verification requires opt-in documentation (proof of consent method) with your application. Because of this, and due to the multi-week process for approvals, we highly recommend 10DLC registration.

toll-free verification

Wireless carriers are making an effort to stop spam and requiring all message senders to verify their brand and campaigns. Updated guidelines have been introduced for toll-free text numbers. Read on to see how we're keeping verification simple and free for our customers.

Back in July 2022, we wrote a blog post discussing some of the big changes coming to business texting. In it, we discussed a variety of upcoming changes, most of which are now applied across the industry. One of the key points we covered was toll-free texting. Initially, when toll-free text numbers burst onto the scene, they were extremely popular. Unfortunately, this meant they were popular with scammers as well as legitimate businesses. Some changes needed to be made to deal with the issues - step forward, toll-free text number verification. 

Your burning question: what is verification and what does this mean for my business? Don’t worry, this guide will cover everything you need to know about this industry-wide change. By the end, you will understand what verification is if it affects you, and the steps you should take if it does. Before all of that, let’s briefly cover these in general. 

What are toll-free phone numbers?

According to the FCC, toll-free numbers (TFNs) are telephone numbers with distinct three-digit codes that can be dialed from landlines at no charge to the person placing the call. The benefit of these numbers is that they let callers contact out-of-area businesses without being charged a long-distance fee. Likewise, you can use a TFN to send out texts to your audience. 

Your number will be given one of the following codes: 

  • 800

  • 888

  • 877

  • 866

  • 855

  • 844

  • 833

What is toll-free text number verification?

Effectively, toll-free text number verification is a process that shows your number has been approved to send messages. Think of it as a qualification of sorts; without verification, messages sent from a toll-free text number will be subject to more strict limits for message blocking, daily message volume, and message delivery speed. If your messages are blocked using an unverified toll-free text number, you won’t be able to send any further messages with that number.

It sounds simple, but there are some nuances to be aware of. Verification is not whitelisting, so it does not guarantee that messages will not be blocked. To avoid blocking, follow text messaging best practices and avoid bad use cases. Toll-free text number verification also requires extensive information about your company, use case(s), message examples, and proof of how recipients opted in to receive messages from your organization. 

When is toll-free verification coming into effect?

It has already happened! September 30th, 2022 was the moment this regulation came into effect. If you have TFNs and they aren’t verified, we recommend you submit them for verification immediately. 

Restricted (aka Unverified) numbers have either 1) not applied for verification or 2) been denied verification. Therefore they are subject to the highest amount of filtering, and numbers in this state will automatically get shut off if any spam or unwanted traffic is detected.

  • Daily Limit: 2k msgs per day

  • Weekly Limit: 12k msgs per week

  • Monthly Limit: 25k msgs per month. 

    • All messages, regardless of being successful or not, will count toward the daily, weekly, and monthly volumes.

    • For example, if you send 25k messages on the first of the month, the first 2k messages will be allowed, and the remaining 23k messages will be blocked. All 25k messages will count toward the weekly and monthly totals.

Is toll-free text number verification required?

No, but it may be soon. Although verification isn’t technically a requirement to send text messages over a toll-free text number, there are consequences of not becoming a verified sender. To start with, you should be aware of the daily message limits referenced above this paragraph. Let’s say you don’t send many messages and the daily limits aren’t an issue. Can you afford to have your message(s) blocked?

Most senders are going to want to verify in order to avoid possible issues that might come up related to blocking (aka spam filtering) of messages. Furthermore, verification can take 5-6 weeks to complete and senders who only use texting in critical situations might find that they can’t get up and running in time to get their messages out Let’s look at several common types of use cases, and how this might become a major issue.

  • Emergency or Urgent Messages
    The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how important communication is during emergencies. Whether it was an alert about new cases, locations closing, staffing needs, or vaccination updates - all types of organizations had a need to communicate important information quickly. The same applies to severe weather alerts and other emergencies. With an unverified, or restricted, number an organization runs the risk of having its messages go undelivered, or blocked, and finding itself unable to keep people informed when it matters most.

  • Staffing or Job Fills
    Many staffing firms, hospitals, distribution centers, and other businesses rely on text messaging to fill positions and open shifts. You wouldn’t think that these types of messages would get blocked, but it happens. Using all caps in messages like RN or LVN or MBA can trigger a spam filter. Listing a callback number that is different than the number sending the text or using free link shorteners can also result in blocks. If your business depends on texting and you can’t send messages, it’s going to be painful.

  • Announcements & Reminders
    Let’s say that you’re a large employer, association, or even a small church and you have an urgent message to get out. It may be difficult to get up and running with text messaging due to the time and requirements of the verification process.

Text-Em-All Tip:  Avoid message blocking
As the wireless carriers have gotten more serious about reducing the amount of spam, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of issues related to message blocking for our customers. Many of these blocks are “false positives” triggered by the filters carriers are putting in place. Regardless, once a block occurs, the text number cannot send further messages until the issue is resolved. 

Resolving message blocks should be a huge consideration when evaluating CSPs or developing your own in-house texting solution. At Text-Em-All, we have customer-facing teams that; 

  • Have been able to resolve 80% of blocked messages

  • Resolve more than 50% of blocks in less than 24 hours

  • Only 20% of blocks take more than 72 hours

Why has toll-free verification been brought in?

Again, we touched upon something earlier in this guide that needs to be reviewed. In the introduction, it was mentioned that texting is popular amongst spammers and scammers. Did you know that 376,032,773 spam texts are sent per day, on average? It’s a severe problem, and verification and 10DLC registration are hitting this problem head-on. 

Spammers are the most irritating people on the planet, but you can’t deny they’re clever. They realize what consumers are used to seeing, and they know how to get people to respond to messages or click on links. The secret is presenting the consumer with a number that seems trustworthy - enter TFN verification. 

You see, spammers are aware that numbers with toll-free codes before them are considered legitimate business numbers. Someone sees the number on their phone, and they assume that a company is messaging them. Particularly if the spammer/scammer poses as a business - it’s not hard to message consumers from a fake TFN, claiming to be a popular company, and providing them with a link to click. Unfortunately, the unsuspecting recipient will click the link and end up in all sorts of trouble. 

Consequently, there has been a breakdown in trust between users and text messages. People are finding it difficult to differentiate between trustworthy and untrustworthy messages because they are being utilized by spammers. This is why toll-free text number verification is now in place.

Restore trust

Companies with toll-free text numbers are now forced to verify them. Therefore, it should mean that every toll-free text number sending messages is legitimate. The approval process - which we’ll talk about in more detail later on - will involve proving that your number is for business use. In theory, it shouldn’t be possible for spammers or scam artists to obtain verified phone numbers. 

This means that consumers and the general public will slowly have more faith in these numbers when they appear on their phones. They now know that a number has to be verified for it to be active. Ultimately, this will lead to more benefits for businesses like yours - again, more on that at a later point in this guide. 

Reduce spam

Remember that stat we included earlier about spam texts? Well, things weren’t always like this. Spam texts weren’t a colossal issue until recently, with data from March 2022 indicating that spam texting increased by 1,024% from April 2021. This is an absolutely staggering statistic that clearly indicates a growing problem in the industry. 

It’s no surprise that toll-free text number verification was brought into play. Something had to be done to cut down on spam texts and reduce these figures. As of yet, there isn’t enough data to see if it has done that. However, if you keep checking our blog, we’ll update you with the latest statistics and industry insights as they happen.

How do you verify?

The verification process for toll-free is equal parts simple and complex. It’s simple in that you do not need to do anything particularly complicated. However, it’s complex as it asks for some critical information, and can take quite a while for your number to be approved and officially verified. This is why it’s crucial to act as quickly as possible if you haven’t already. We suggest starting the verification process immediately after reading this guide!

Thankfully, Text-Em-All is here to help guide you through the process. We can handle your submission for you, but we’ll need some information beforehand.

To get started, here is a breakdown of all the information you need: 

  • Company Name - This has to be your legal company name, as written on all government forms. 

  • Type Of Business - You have to indicate what type of business you run; we will usually provide some options for you to select, or you can specify what type of business you operate if you can’t see yours on the list. 

  • Address - We also need to know your address and what state your company is registered in. 

  • Business Contact Details - Please give us all the contact details for your business, such as the website URL, phone number, email, etc. 

  • Details Of Your Campaign - Naturally, mass text messaging services are used as part of an overall campaign. We need to know exactly why you are sending out messages to consumers. Is it part of our marketing process, promoting new products and generating leads? (we don’t allow this at Text-Em-All) Are your messages being sent to remind people of appointments, or to update them with delivery information/receipts? Or, do you use mass messaging for customer service purposes, conversing with consumers to help them with any issues? Answer this question truthfully, and remember to only answer it for the number in question. If you use multiple numbers for each different thing, you will need to register each one, specifying what it is used for. 

  • Estimated Number Of Messages - This can be a hard field to fill in, but try to estimate how many texts you’ll send every month. If you have already been running campaigns for years, you should have enough data to accurately tell us. Please note that this refers to the individual messages you send out. If you send the same message to 1000 customers, that counts as 1000 messages, not one.

  • Text Message Samples - We have already helped numerous organizations and in our experience, this is one of the key factors to focus on. You should provide some sample texts to show what you typically send to your audience. Go through previous messages and just copy and paste them here for us. If you have never sent an SMS message before, think about the type of things you might send to customers/leads. There’s a lot of inspiration out there if you are really struggling to come up with ideas. 

  • Opt-In Details - Next, you need to explain how people opted into receiving your messages. Did you text them first, asking them to respond with a keyword (JOIN or YES) to opt in? Did you send them an email or provide an online form for them to fill in, stipulating that they wanted to receive text messages? Was it a paper form that you used at a physical location, or did the individual opt in via a POS? The purpose of this is to prove that you actually gained consent via legitimate means. You should also submit details of how people opted in, with evidence supporting your claims. It prevents instances where spammers or scammers gain numbers in illegitimate or illegal ways.

    • This is the most difficult part for senders to comply with. While opt-in is not a legal requirement. The wireless carriers are mandating that senders provide explicit proof of how they obtained consent. Many senders may not have this and will need to move to 10DLC registration.

Once all of this information has been submitted, we can send off your registration form right away.

How long will the process take?

This can vary on a case-by-case basis. Currently, it’ll take anywhere between 2 to 6 weeks for your application to be approved or rejected. Sometimes, the waiting time can be longer than this due to a high number of applications being sent at once. The main reason for this is that every case is reviewed manually. There will be someone that has to sit there and look at your application, determining if your number should be verified or not. 

While it sounds backward when it could be automated, there is a method to the madness. The idea is that manual verification should reduce the number of spammers slipping through the cracks. Consequently, consumers can have more faith that the text numbers they see are actually safe and legitimate. 

Why are some applications rejected for verification?

We get this question a lot, as businesses want to be sure that their application gets approved. Sometimes, your application isn’t flat-out rejected, but more information is required. This tends to happen when you haven’t filled in the form with as much detail as possible. We urge you to give us as much information as you can conceivably provide. This includes supplying evidence of things like opt-in consent, as well as sample text messages. The more information we have, the greater chance there is of your application being approved. 

Moreover, there are specific use cases that will be denied toll-free text number verification. Right now, the following campaigns are prohibited in the US:

  • High-risk financial services - This covers any financial services that are deemed risky enough to result in a loss of money for customers. Some of the campaigns within this category are:

    • High-interest loans

    • Payday loans

    • Mortgage loans

    • Student loans

    • Cryptocurrency services

    • Gambling services

    • Auto loans

  • Get rich quick schemes - Similarly, some of the services above could quantify as “get rich quick schemes”. This encompasses any campaign that promises to make the individual extremely wealthy in a very short period. Gambling is perhaps the biggest example of this, but a couple of others include pyramid schemes and deceptive work-from-home programs. 

  • Debt forgiveness - Any campaigns revolving around forgiving someone’s debt will be excluded. Examples of these are: 

    • Debt consolidation services

    • Credit repair services

    • Debt reduction services

    • Debt collection services

  • Illegal substances/activities - Many substances/activities are deemed illegal under the current guidelines. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s illegal for your business to sell them, but it isn’t legal to promote them to consumers. If this is the purpose of your text message campaign, your application will be denied. Common products/activities include: 

    • Cannabis and other drugs

    • Alcohol

    • Tobacco products

    • Vape products

  • Deceptive marketing - The legal definition of deceptive marketing includes claims that are “too good to be true.” If you use toll-free text numbers to send marketing messages that make false claims or persuade consumers into buying things based on false pretenses or embellished claims, your application will be rejected. We can also include phishing and any other scams under this category as well. 

  • Pornography, profanity, or hate speech - Any text campaigns that reference or revolve around pornography, profanity, or hate speech will be instantly rejected. 

How does toll-free verification compare with 10DLC?

Lots of organizations get confused when the idea of toll-free text number verification is brought up. The confusion stems from the presence of 10DLC. This was something that carriers introduced in the US in a bid to protect consumers and clamp down on spammers and scammers. Initially, you can see how it seems very similar to toll-free text number verification.

In simple terms, senders can get started with a toll-free text number right away and begin sending messages, but with a 10-digit long code, you can’t send messages until registration is complete. 10DLC registration usually takes several days to a week, whereas verification takes many weeks. Furthermore, verification requires explicit proof of how users opted-in to receive messages. This is something many senders don’t have. At Text-Em-All, we recommend starting with a toll-free text number and then starting the process to register a local number.

How much does it cost?

Right now there is no cost to verify a toll-free text number. 

While there are no fees involved keep in mind that the process is longer and more difficult to complete than 10DLC registration (also no cost at Text-Em-All).

What happens if my application isn’t approved?

If your application doesn’t get approved, it isn’t the end of the world. Yes, life will be more complicated, but you are still technically allowed to send messages from the number. The issue is that you will run into more roadblocks and problems with the service, depending on your carrier. We’ll go into this in more detail if you keep on reading our guide, in the section about the benefits of toll-free text number verification. 

Moreover, it is possible to resubmit your application after it is denied. Some organizations see why their application was rejected, meaning they can work on making it ready for approval next time around. Be warned, this can take an extremely long time. If your first application took 6 weeks to come back, your second one could take just as long - if not longer. This is another reason it’s super important to fill the initial application in as accurately and as detailed as can be. 

Do I have to be a Text-Em-All customer to register?

Yes and no. 

You don’t have to be a Text-Em-All customer to register. If you aren’t, the process might be more costly and time-consuming. To get through everything as swiftly as possible, we do suggest joining us. It makes your life easier as we can submit your registration form and handle things for you. 

Furthermore, we can assign you a text number if you don’t already have one. This kills two birds with one stone as you get your number, and it will be sent off for verification immediately. Those of you that already have toll-free numbers can still join us and use our service to register. We will transfer your number and assign it to your Text-Em-All account upon sign-up. Then, we’ll proceed with the verification process.

What are the benefits of toll-free text number verification?

We appreciate that hearing you need to verify is frustrating. Particularly when you take into account how long the verification process can take. It leads many organizations to wonder if they should bother. After all, this isn’t the law. Nothing is stopping you from ignoring this industry change and not verifying. 

However, toll-free text number verification comes with some significant benefits. Some of these have already been mentioned, so we won’t go back over them in too much detail. For instance, having a verified and approved number will build and establish trust among consumers. This can have a knock-on effect, which we will discuss in just a moment! Some problems can happen when your number isn’t verified, so here are the main benefits of doing it: 

Improve message delivery

Verified numbers will experience better message delivery than those that aren’t. This is because the number has been pre-approved, so carriers know they can trust it. It’ll mean your messages get sent to your customers with minimal bumps in the road. By contrast, a non-verified numbers might experience all sorts of problems along its way. 

For starters, many carriers are now restricting what numbers can and can’t send messages over their airwaves. Depending on what carrier is being used, you might not be able to send any messages at all. You also have more chance of being blocked if your number isn’t verified. Carriers or customers may block the number because they think it’s suspicious, meaning you drastically reduce your reach. 

Remember, this is being done to clamp down on text message spam. If you have a verified number, there is a dramatically reduced chance of your number being seen as spammy. As a result, you will be able to send and receive messages with minimal issues your way. 

Save money & boost ROI

Your organization can save a lot of money and see a greater return on investment by going ahead with toll-free text number verification. One burning question is ready to escape your lips: how is this possible?

When a number isn’t verified, some carriers are adding surcharges that mean you pay extra fees to send messages. Therefore, your entire texting campaign will cost more money to implement. Again, this is being done to help deter spammers and scammers. If it costs them more money to run spam campaigns, the theory is that fewer people will bother. They’d have to register to avoid the charges, but the nature of their campaigns means they’ll be rejected. If you operate a legitimate business with a legitimate campaign, you don’t need to spend money on surcharges. Simply verify your toll-free number to escape any unnecessary extra costs. 

Where does the improved ROI come from? It partially links to the previous point about message delivery improvements. In the SMS world, there is something known as a false-positive block. This is when your number is incorrectly flagged up for spam or suspicious activity, meaning it gets blocked by the carrier. Verification can reduce the number of false-positive blocks you see, allowing you to reach a wider audience. In turn, this helps you message more people, all of the time, potentially increasing engagement and generating more leads. Think of it this way; you are simply removing a stumbling block that could make you waste money. 

What else should you know?

At this point in our guide, you have received a lot of crucial information. You know what toll-free text numbers are, what verification is, who needs it, how to do it, and the benefits of it. Still, there is one major thing you should know about verification that hasn’t been covered yet. 

Verifying your toll-free number is not the same as whitelisting it.

This is a very important topic to discuss as it’s where many organizations go wrong. Yes, we have just gone over the benefits of verifying and how this act can improve your business. One of the main points discussed is the reduction of false-positive blocks you’ll receive. The keyword is reduction; your number can still be blocked if it is verified. 

While this can seem unfair, it is perfectly reasonable when you consider how many messages are sent every day. There is bound to be a case or two when the wrong number gets blocked. You aren’t whitelisting your number by verifying it, so there will never be a 100% guarantee that it doesn’t get blocked again. 

The good news is that verified numbers can be unblocked very easily. If anything, this is another reason to verify your number. We can look at the issue and see if your number has been incorrectly blocked. As long as the messages you send align with the uses you outlined in your application, the number will be unblocked ASAP. We can contact the relevant people to inform them of the error, unblocking your phone. 

If your number isn’t verified, it is almost impossible to unblock it thanks to this new process. 

A summary of toll-free text number verification

On that note, you have reached the end of our in-depth guide to toll-free text number verification. We hope that all of your questions have been answered as we have covered as many subtopics as possible within this overall topic. 

As a quick summary, this was an industry-wide update that came into play in September 2022. Any business that uses toll-free should fill in a registration form to get the number verified as quickly as possible. The process can take up to 6 weeks on average, so the quicker you act, the better. Verifying your toll-free number will lead to many benefits, including: 

  • Smoother delivery of messages

  • A reduced number of false-positive blocks

  • Avoidance of surcharges for unverified numbers

  • Easier to unblock your number if it is incorrectly blocked

  • Save money & get a better ROI from your campaigns

If you would like to set up a toll-free number, or you have an existing one that needs to be verified, we are perfectly positioned to help you out. Feel free to sign-up today for a free trial, or contact us for more information.