Virtually all US phone numbers on fictional programmes are made up of the following:
Area Code - 555 - four random digits
"555" is an exchange number commonly thought to be reserved by the phone companies for use by TV and movies in order to prevent misdial phone calls to real people. In fact, only 555-0100 through 555-0199 are now specifically reserved for fictional use, and the other numbers have been released for actual assignment. The 555 exchange was originally useful for this purpose because it was (in North America) reserved for various internal phone company service numbers, so calling one of the 555 numbers would not have reached an actual customer.
In the United States and Canada, calling 1-###-555-1212 reaches an area code ### directory assistance operator. The same information is available for local numbers in the North American Numbering Plan countries by dialling 4-1-1, one of the N11 codes; all wireless carriers offer nationwide listings with 411, and some offer additional Enhanced Directory Assistance services.
As the standard number 555-1212 exists in all Canadian and US geographic area codes (so that directory assistance for a remote or non-local area code is available at 1-area code-555-1212) this has caused telephone companies de facto to reserve the entire 555 exchange for information numbers in every area code nationwide. While only 555-0100 to 0199 are explicitly reserved for fictional use, most or all of the other possible 555-xxxx numbers are left unused. (Other common North American reservations included 958- and 1-###-959 for test numbers, 950- for access to alternate long-distance carriers, and anything with a leading 0- or 1- in the area code or the seven-digit local number. A '9' in the middle digit of the area code is also reserved for future numbering plan expansion. 555 as an area code, in the format 1-555-NXX-XXXX, is also unused and reserved due to similarity to the information numbers.)
There are exceptions: the exchange prefix 555 is valid for toll-free +1-800 numbers (e.g. 1-800-555-xxxx, but not any other freephone prefix like 1-888, 877, 866, 855, 844 and 833). The prefix may also be a valid exchange in some other country outside the North American Numbering Plan; this happened often in Australia before that country's local numbers were lengthened to eight digits.
In the days when telephone exchanges had names, 555- was usually rendered as "KLondike 5" (on, e.g., The Honeymooners); the practice persisted for quite some time after everyone in the real world had stopped using the system. The Simpsons have used variations such as JL5 and KL5, and in the movie Ghostbusters, the heroes' phone number starts with KL5.
The Nanette Workman song "Callgirl" gives what purport to be Montréal telephone numbers for a sex worker in four languages (French, English, German, Spanish); the German number contains the nonsense word "drufnuf" as one of the digits, the Spanish number uses 203-XXXX at a time when a 0 or 1 in the second digit was reserved for telephone area codes (this reservation no longer exists). The B-side of the B52's single "Rock Lobster" had a song titled 6060-842 with the lyrics "Operator, what's wrong? I dial stupid number all day long. The operator said: your number's been disconnected, your number's been disconnected, your number's been disconnected..." as 606 at the time was not a local exchange but an area code for Kentucky, rendering the number invalid.
Often, as numbers become scarce, national authorities will change the numbering system - and possibly make what used to be an invalid number become real.
Some very enterprising shows have instead simply bought real numbers and connected them to additional content relevant to the show. This was done for Scrubs - for a few weeks, calling Turk's new cell phone number connected you to a phone that was actually on the set, and if you were lucky enough to call when somebody was there, you ran a good chance of getting to talk to the cast and crew. This was used widely in the Alternate Reality Game promotion for the movie A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, but the practice is far more common for URLs than for telephone numbers.
This also appears in Easter eggs in various media, where a creator or studio will hide their own number somewhere in a work, such as the number on a control panel in Monsters Inc, which is Pixar's telephone number.
As with domain names, there is the risk that any real phone numbers will be reassigned to someone else once the studio stops renewing the subscription. If the number is in a non-geographic or freephone prefix, it also risks not working at all for international calls. Storing a prerecorded game clue on a real telephone number? When that number goes dead, the whole game is that little bit less playable. For instance, the licensed NES game of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? used a real number for this toll-free message:
"It is shocking the way some neighborhoods are getting. You practically can't walk anywhere without running into stray dogs, cats, and other animals. It makes you wish you carried a piece of meat, a fish bone, or a piece of cheese around with you. The weasel that is guarding Judge Doom's warehouse is the one called Stupid. I've heard that the only thing that'll get him to leave is a quick game of softball. Know anyplace where you could get a baseball in a hurry?"
There are US FCC regulations which are supposed to prevent hoarding, brokering and warehousing of numbers. They're not enforced. Disconnect a +1-800 and it will be cybersquatted within milliseconds of it becoming available for assignment to new subscribers. Domain names (where there is no regulation) are just as bad for this, or worse.
Some motion pictures have used telephone numbers starting with '1' as, in North America, real telephone numbers cannot start with a 1 or a 0, due to technical requirements. Sony Pictures Legal Department permits its TV shows to use any area code (except 800 or 888) followed by a "1" or "0" as the first digit of the seven-digit phone number. (e.g.,  074-2566,  177-4305) Many major studios share this policy on advice from their lawyers. In contrast, almost all numbers in many European countries start with 0, which is omitted when one dials internationally.
One of the things that have been done in Southern California is that a lot of prefixes specifically leave one number in each exchange non-assigned: the number consisting of that prefix followed by "1" and that prefix number, so that a number like 867-1867 would be left unavailable. They may or may not still be following this practice, however; it was used at least once in an episode of Adam-12 where the guy read his phone number to the officers, and it used the prefix-1-prefix format.
There is however, one area code that while it does exist, has only one telephone number. The United States Government has a special telephone system operated by the National Communications System or NCS (a part of FEMA, which means it's under the control of the Department of Homeland Security), and the service is called Government Emergency Telecommunications System, or GETS. This uses area code 710. The one and only telephone number in that area code is 1-710-627-4387. This odd number represents what you get from the spelled version of the number: 1-710-NCS-GETS. Note that from most pay phones you can call this number without paying; you get a special dial tone requiring you enter an NCS-authorized account number and then the number to be called. No point bothering with this number unless you legitimately are allowed to call it; presumably the black helicopters could come after you if you called it many times for no good reason.
In the UK, Ofcom reserves banks of numbers under various codes for different dramatic purposes: for example 07700-900### for mobile phones, (020) 7946 0### for London, or (0141) 496 0### for Glasgow.
In Australia, where phone numbers are eight digits rather than seven, (0x) 5550 xxxx and 7010 xxxx are reserved for fictional use.
A modern version of Five Five Five occurs when a computer's IP address is required. Usually, addresses with at least one of the numbers above 255 (such as 322.214.171.124) are used, as these are not legal addresses. Note, however, that using an address that is 10.x.y.z, 172.[16..31].x.y, or 192.168.x.y, 169.254.x.x, or 127.x.x.x is another way to accomplish this, as these IP address spaces are reserved for local area networks and loopback communications, and so no computer on the public Internet could have one of these addresses. However, this technique is rarely used, possibly because anyone who would complain about the use of an invalid IP address would also complain if an "obviously" non-routable address were presented as an address on the Internet. Then again, it's less glaringly obvious than using an IP address that features a number above 255. Oddly enough, the address range 192.0.2.x, which is explicitly set aside for example use, rarely seems to be used; although this might be for the same reason as above, when people may associate '192.x.x.x' instead of the real range of '192.168.x.x' with 'private IP space'.
Search-wise.net serves as a dummy search engine for shows that want to show a character using a search engine but which (for whatever reason) either don't want to or can't use a real one like Google. For example The BBC doesn't have product placement so Search-wise is used instead.
Aircraft tail registration numbers N88892, N9748C and N9747P are reserved for cinematic use as well. Some of these numbers may have originally belonged to a small private plane which was written off in a non-fatal collision or accident; the tail number of the destroyed plane is retired, only to constantly re-appear on fictional aircraft in cinema or other media.
A secretary who worked for a supplier to the F.W. Woolworth Co. was asked to make up a fake Social Security card for use in wallets that the company sold. She put her own number on the card. So many people started using it (many probably by accident, thinking it was a legitimate number to use) that the Social Security Administration gave her a new number. To this day, there are hundreds of people (some working under the table) who are working under her original number, 078-05-1120. While everyone at the Social Security Administration knows it's no longer a valid number, most people do not. Similarly, a placeholder commonly used in Visa (Chargex) credit card adverts in Canada is the name "G. Raymond", which belonged to a real Visa Desjardins employee and looked the same in both French or English.
An actual invalid US Social Security number would start with three zeros (000-12-3456) or use "00" as the two center digits (123-00-3456). While neither of these or anything similar is valid, a Social Security number ending in four zeros could be valid. Also, no valid Social Security number will start with 8 or 9, although the Internal Revenue Service assigns identification numbers for individuals who are required to pay taxes but do not have valid Social Security numbers using the same format starting with 9 (9##-##-####). Some Railroad Retirement System numbers (private retirement system used by railroads before they dumped their passenger operations onto Amtrak, and before the SSN became a de facto citizen ID number) did start with 8 or 9, which is why they are never used for Social Security.
Since we have several examples from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, this practice clearly predates Tommy Tutone's 1982 hit, "867-5309/Jenny." There was considerable backlash arising from people calling 867-5309 and asking for Jenny in various area codes; as this practice of non-routeable placeholder numbers was already well established by the time the song was released, this song was a significant departure from the norm.
A variant exists for postal addresses; when a real street is used for a character's address, the actual house number usually doesn't exist. This is much less noticeable than a fake telephone number because only a viewer who's very familiar with the city in question will pick up on it.
There are also fictional TV channels (at least in North America): Channel 37 has never been issued to any real-life TV station, since its frequency (608-614 MHz) was given over to radio astronomy in 1963. (In addition, channel 1 was removed in 1948 and channels 70 and up were removed in the 1980s. The removal of 52-69 during the 2009-2011 analog shutdown and removal of everything else above 36 in the 2019-2021 repack were hidden from viewers by a virtual subchannel numbering scheme.)
- A liquor brand once ran a series of billboards that resembled personal ads, complete with real phone numbers. Those who called heard a recorded message about the product.
- There was a television ad in the 1980s about an old guy who drove a very old, reliable car. The point was that this brand of car would last forever if you serviced it fastidiously. If you didn't believe that, you were invited to call the old guy at his real phone number.
- Shell Oil did this back in the 1980s, having someone tell how much better its oil was in their car, and if people didn't believe him, were instructed to call the person's number. One of these ads had a number that turned out to be a local number to me, so I called it, and it was a recording where the same guy tells that it really is better.
- LifeLock, a company offering identity theft protection, not only offered a $1 million guarantee that your identity would not be stolen, but also dared thieves to do so in its advertising. Todd Davis, the owner, placed his real Social Security number (457-55-5462) in commercials, averting this trope. Inevitably, within days of the commercial airing, someone was able to take out a $500 payday loan in his name.
Anime and Manga
- In Initial D Fourth Stage, the URL of the racing team Project D is "http://project.d". ".d" is not a valid real-life top-level domain.
- Manga in general place symbols like Xs and triangles over some of the phone numbers displayed outside a business or an address book. Same can go for license plates since Japanese plates are mostly numbers.
- Comedian Mitch Hedberg had a variation in his act. "I would like the phone number 222-2222. Whenever someone asked about it, I could just say, 'Press 2 for a while. When I answer, you'll know that you've pressed 2 enough.'
- In the stage show of the British comedy series Bottom, they reveal the character's phone number to be 444-4444.
- These are actually both totally legitimate phone numbers in the US and Canada. Local taxis, newspapers and food delivery companies routinely try to request these numbers as they're easy to remember.
- A law firm in Milwaukee uses this long number, but after their original ad announcer retired the new guy has given up on the continuous repetition and just said "Dial 414, then all fours". Another law firm has the number (444-4444) in Syracuse.
- These are actually both totally legitimate phone numbers in the US and Canada. Local taxis, newspapers and food delivery companies routinely try to request these numbers as they're easy to remember.
- Then there's the incredibly lame bilingual pun: A German boy asks an English-speaking girl for her phone number. She replies, "999-9999". The German boy says, "All right, don't tell me then."'
- Monty Python's Flying Circus did a BBC album of some of their TV sketches in 1970, with the "Mouse Problem" sketch among them. What was added that wasn't on TV was the telephone number of Mr. A ("Although his real name is George Jackson, 32A Milton Avenue, Hounslow, Middlesex. Telephone 01-246-2847.")
- In the "Sam Spayed" story in Garfield His 9 Lives, he once has to call the number 555-1234. (He's not good at remembering numbers.)
- The Last Action Hero lampshades this trope when Danny pinpoints it to convince Jack Slater that they're inside a movie. Naturally, it doesn't convince him.
Danny: "See? All the phone numbers start with 555!"
- Of course, even if they did use area codes, only 10 million people could be serviced with only the 555 prefix, which isn't enough to cover the LA metro area, let alone the rest of the country. If any area code-prefix-suffix combination is used, the North American phone system has a 10 billion number capacity.
- The same issue would arise if the North American Numbering Plan were legally required to issue the local number 867-5309 to every subscriber with the name "Jenny" or "Jennifer". It'd break the entire system.
- Live Free or Die Hard used the Class C private IP version (192.168.x.y).
- In the 2008 TV film based on the 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun (and set in that time period), the for-sale sign outside the Youngers' new home lists the phone number as "KL 50148".
- Back to The Future has the distinction of using both versions. In 1985, the number for Jennifer's grandma is "555-4823". In 1955, "Doc" Brown's number is "KLondike 5-4385".
- Bruce Almighty was a particularly interesting case. In the original theatrical version, the number left on Bruce's pager was a real seven-digit number. While +1-716-776-2323 does not exist in Buffalo NY, the number was displayed as just the seven local digits, which actually happened to exist in many other U.S. area codes in other cities. In some area codes, the number reached a radio station... or a church. The studio realized its mistake soon afterwards; on the DVD release and TV airings, the number on the pager was replaced with 555-0123 and all dialogue mentioning it was overdubbed.
- There was some shock and laughs when some called the original number and connected with a church in North Carolina reportedly tended by a pastor named Bruce, as well as other churches in Georgia and the private cell number of a pastor in Wisconsin.
- Avoided in Sneakers, where the NSA operative gives her phone number as "273-9164, area code 415". (At the time this was a real number for the San Francisco office of the Internal Revenue Service.)
- If you call the number given to Dwayne Johnson's character at the beginning of Southland Tales (which goes to John Larroquette's character), you'll end up getting John Larroquette's "actual" voice mail.
- Parodied in The Hebrew Hammer: The titular Jewxploitation hero enters the first six digits of a number ("555-555..."), then struggles to remember the seventh ("Oh, yeah! 5!").
- In The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, a girl asks for Ford's number. He gives her a 555 number and she complains that they only use those in movies. He replies, "Hey, no shit, honey--what do you think this is, real life?"
- In I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell the number one of the characters asks someone to dial actually leads to Tucker Max's real phone.
- Subverted in the Blues Brothers, in that the"fake" address Elwood gives for his driver's license is a real address. But the address is that of Wrigley Field.
- Used for laughs in Fatal Instinct. Ned reads the entire business card of Le Hot Club out loud, pronouncing every word slowly and solemnly, including the phone number: 555-5555.
- Drawn attention to in character Lucas Lee's movie-within-a-movie You Just Don't Exist in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, where he is shown punching "555" into a phone booth keypad with the barrel of a gun.
- Played with in the original Black Christmas, when one character convinces an ignorant and bumbling cop that the number to her sorority house is "fellatio" 20880, or FE (i.e. 332-0880). Makes for some laughs later, when the sheriff, who knows what the word means, reads the note.
- A typical example appears in The Ref when Gus gives Lloyd's number to Murray.
- Monument Taxi in True Lies has 555-2439. Another 800 number is written on their cars, too, for some reason.
- Junie B. Jones on Telephone Numbers: "Its name is 555-5555. It's hard to remember, because I keep forgetting the 5."
- Warren Ellis' novel Crooked Little Vein: When told to call (555) 555-5555 for help, Mike demonstrates his detective skills by pointing out that the number won't work, as it's only used by Hollywood. To which the Chief of Staff responds, "We gave it to them. It works for us."
- Sherlock Holmes lived at 221B Baker Street. A fake London address at the time of writing, but since then the street has been expanded and now 221 Baker Street is a real address.
- And a Sherlock Holmes Museum/Gift Shop.
- Nero Wolfe lived on West 35th Street, Manhattan; the number varied, but consistently put his house in the river.
- The Babysitters Club could be reached at KL5-3231.
- Harry Dresden's phone number, shown in a picture of his phone book entry in the game, is (312) 555-4-WIZ.
- An address example (sort of): Harry Potter boards the Hogwarts Express at a real train station, but the fictional Platform 9 3/4.
Live Action TV
- iCarly: 1-555-SEND-ME-A-SACK
- The "Broom Cupboard" episode of The Unit features a foreign phone number containing 5555 .
- 24 once used the illegal IP address version.
- A "KL5" phone number can be seen on a background poster in Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, raising the question of how many members of the target demographic would even recognize that as being a phone number.
- The West Wing reverses this trope. In the second-season episode "In this White House," Ainsley Hayes reads the telephone number of an incoming call off her Caller ID as (202) 456-1414. This is in fact the switchboard number at the White House.
- Subverted in an episode of News Radio: An elementary-school class is touring the station, and corporate boss and chronic wife-hunter Jimmy James spends the episode flirting with the teacher. Finally, as they're leaving, she gives him a piece of paper with a math problem on it, saying that solving it will give him her phone number. After she's out of earshot, Jimmy pulls the class' resident wunderkind aside and has him solve it; by the time he realizes it's "one of those phony TV numbers", everyone's gone and he throws it away in disgust.
- Pushing Daisies, which is set in a 1950s Retro Universe, had an episode where Emerson Cod said his phone number was "KLondike 5-0155".
- The Lost episode "The Constant" used a London number beginning 020 7946 0, which is a range of numbers designated by the Office of Communications for drama purposes. This created a slight anachronism, as the 020 region code did not exist in 1996, in which half the episode took place.
- Still, they've Shown Their Work enough not to give a Londoner a Lanark phone number (the area code 01555 in the United Kingdom).
- Seinfeld typically prefixed its numbers with KL5, but in one episode Elaine reveals that when a man she doesn't want to see again asks for her number, she gives a fake one that spells "No Elaine", which is one digit more than a phone number.
- Also from Seinfeld, in one episode Kramer's phone number is 555-3455, which is one digit off from Moviefone, 555-FILM (3456). Moviefone's actual number is 777-FILM; presumably, the writers wanted to spare the actual 777-3455 from a flood of prank calls, since they (like Kramer) were presumably already getting lots of wrong numbers.
- In an episode of Happy Days, Ralph Malph is excited that a prospective date's number starts with Klondike 5--"Hey! I got a Klondike 5!"
- Used and averted on Third Watch: In one scene, Doc asks for a woman's phone number, but we hear only the last four digits as a vehicle passes by, preventing us (but not Doc) from hearing the first three. Other episodes have used it straight.
- The KACL studio number in Frasier is 555-KACL.
- Doctor Who: The Doctor's mobile phone number 07700 900461 was given out, causing thousands to try contacting him using it.
- The Law and Order franchise, filmed on the streets of New York City, uses the 555 phone numbers, and alternates between real and fake addresses, depending on the use. If it's a business address it will be a real number; a victims house, the location will be a real number or a fake that's between two real numbers. If it's the site of a crime or something shady (like an illegal whorehouse), the address would put the place in either the East River or the Hudson.
- Subtly lampshaded in one episode when the detectives themselves have this one pulled on them. The detectives have had a suspect's vital information given, and it lists an address. When an officer reads that address off to Detective Briscoe, he says a line to the effect of "The middle of the Hudson River."
- Another perp's home address was the Police Academy. One even had the gall to use the business address for One Police Plaza as his address. Sometimes, criminals do think of these things.
- Moonlight: When Beth Turner gives her phone number, she starts with 555, but is then cut off by a scene change.
- It was also done in fake Nickelodeon commercials for ridiculous products, except using zeros instead of fives.
- The Daily Show's favorite lawyer, Stanley Ragooch, has the phone number 555-GABAGOOL.
- Are You Afraid of the Dark? once featured a story about a boy who was imprisoned by the "Phone Police" for making crank calls. When his friend tries to rescue him, he looks up their phone number in the phone book - and is shocked that said number only has six digits.
- Kamen Rider Faiz possibly lampshades; the Transformation Trinket in the series is cell phones, activated by inputting a three-digit code then docking it onto a special belt. The title character's code is 5-5-5 (and is, in fact, a pun; cf. "Phi" (the Greek letter), "Fives", and "Faiz").
- The fifth-season finale of Numb3rs uses the IP address 2126.96.36.199.
- The Canadian sketch comedy show "Hotbox" uses a recurring gag in which all infomercials use the number "555-PISS" as the number to call.
- The Bill once used a "dotted decimal IP address" with a number in the 300s.
- The UK watchdog responsible for this sort of thing designates the area code 01632 as preferred for this purpose (it's the now deprecated code for Newcastle). It doesn't always work, though - Coronation Street doesn't use it because everyone knows that the area code for Manchester is 0161. The local authorities have allocated a spare range in the 0161 codes for covering this, though. Other cities with well-known area codes have followed suit.
- This is why Waterloo Road gives Rochdale the 0161 area code. It's near enough to Manchester that it's plausible enough if you don't know that it's actually 01706, which if you're not local you probably won't. The aforementioned 01632 can also be seen.
- An in-universe example occurs in an episode of Monk, when a bounty hunter posing as a flower deliveryman is exposed partly because the number on his delivery van is one of these.
- Amazingly, another 555 number is used in the episode, but it's "real".
- Ghostwriter loves this trope.
- In one episode of Desperate Housewives, Mike writes a check and his ZIP code is shown as 910274 (six digits). screen grab
- One episode of The Golden Girls has Rose and Blanche campaigning a fundraiser telethon on TV. Rose's donation number is "555-GIVE", followed by Blanche's number: "555-EASY".
- Invoked in the Two and A Half Men episode "818-jklpuzo," where "jklpuzo" is the mnemonic used for a phone number. This translates to 555-7896.
- Producer Chuck Lorre even discusses this trope, and the difficulty in getting the phone number on air, in his essay-like Vanity Plate at the end of the episode. CBS would eventually censor it from broadcast due to the number he gives to the idiots who dial all these numbers as well as the executives, 555-382-5968, which reads FUCK YOU.
- I Love Lucy took place in an apartment building whose address was 623 East 68th Street, which would be in the middle of the East River.
- Tying in with the 5/6/10 episode of The Office, the website for the Dwight Schrute Detective Agency was put online complete with Phone (570) 555-0698, Mobile Phone (570) 555-0698 and Fax (570) 555-0245.
- Breaking Bad averts this trope almost entirely - not only do the characters reference actual Albuquerque area codes, a real ABQ street became the basis for one of the best moments of Season 3.
Walt: 6353 Juan Tabo, apartment six. Yeah.
- Full House has 555-6410, the number for Steve, D.J.'s boyfriend.
- On the episode "Hole in the Wall Gang," Michelle tries to stall Danny by reciting her home phone number. She says 555-2424, but depending on what channel is airing said episode, the first two may be muted out.
- Occurs frequently in forensic shows such as CSI, with the 555-01XX numbers showing up when the investigators or lab techs pull up phone records or analyze data from cellphones.
- Reba has 555-0165, the number for one of Kyra's one-time boyfriends.
- In keeping with the Idiosyncratic Episode Naming, Degrassi Community School's phone number is (416) 867-5309. License plates are all over the place - Principal Simpson has ASKK-080 and Coach Armstrong has COACH001 (Ontario starts the regular number series at xxxx-100, no lead zeroes and has a seven-character Vanity License Plate limit) while Eli has a generic plate with no province (or state) caption.
- As noted above, for quite some time it was subverted with Scrubs. Calling Turk's new cell number actually brought fans to a phone on the set, giving fans a chance to provide feedback or even just have a friendly chat with the cast and crew of the show.
- Earth: Final Conflict had several domains bought out and fake websites assembled with background data and character notes. As the show was made during the late 90's, it was one of the first to make extensive use of this, but considering the family behind it, it's not too shocking.
- Married With Children had Al calling a business number he called previous for a mail order to complain about the shoddy product he received. He asked for the number of the phone operator's supervisor, and received as reply "1-800-BITE-ME". When Bud got assigned to volunteer a virgin hotline, the number was "1-800-ZIPP UP".
- Cold Case has 215-555-0196 in the episode Saving Sammy.
- A Terry Gilliam-animated "commercial" on Monty Python's Flying Circus features Shrill Petrol with the new miracle ingredient GLC 942-4075 (after 6 PM, 942-4047).
- Medium took the extra step of including Phoenix area code 602 (the show's setting) to all the 555 numbers seen on various characters' cellphones.
- Subverted by Glee. Kurt's NYADA application was analyzed to find a number which fans called, finding a real household at the end. Oops.
- On Saturday Night Live, the phone number for "Coffee Talk" (or was it "Coffee Tawk"?) was 555-4444.
- During "Weekend Update" in the first season, there was a segment about contaminated marijuana (in which, unbeknownst to the network, the joint shown on camera was real). Chevy gave an address for viewers to send theirs in for testing. NBC made the producers give a fictional address that would have been in the middle of the Hudson. Nevertheless, some viewers sent some of their stash to the show (you can bet it was "tested" and found to be safe).
- As New Zealand has no official fictional numbers, Shortland Street uses phone numbers in the empty (09) 429-9xxx range. The entire 429 number range is allocated to Great Barrier Island, but with just 550 people on the island, only the 4290 range is used.
- Averted by Sex and the City. The producers signed up for real phone numbers to use onscreen so they could avoid this trope.
- 165 Eaton Place, the Bellamys' house on Upstairs, Downstairs, doesn't exist. For the exterior scenes in the show, the producers used the real house at 65 Eaton and painted a "1" next to the address (as well as the adjacent houses).
- Renowned Russian rocker Boris Grebenschikov has a song about the phone number 2-12-85-06, which was a fake number... until the Russian area code system was changed and "2-" was added to a lot of numbers. There is now a washhouse in St. Petersburg that keeps getting calls from B.G. fans all over the country.
- Soulja Boy's song "Kiss Me Thru The Phone", starts off by reading out a number. In the US, this number called a relevant recorded message. Fans in the UK were just bothering an innocent family.
- AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" averts it mentioning the phone number 36-24-36.
- Bob Rivers' parody "Dirty Deeds Done With Sheep" replaces this with "Don't call 976-B-A-A-A, that kind of love's a crime". In many area codes, +1-NPA-976-XXXX numbers are high-premium.
- De La Soul's "Ring Ring Ring" averts this: "You wanna call me? Take my number down. It's 222-2222. I've got an answering machine that will talk to you." The number is usually blanked out in TV and radio broadcasts of the song and its music video, because it's actually used by the Chicago Tribune, among others. In Winnipeg, it's the pizza hotline.
- The video for Genesis's song "Jesus He Knows Me" featured the (parodied) televangelist's contribution hotline as '1-555-GEN-ESIS'. Area code 555 is reserved to avoid confusion with the +1-NPA-555-1212 information and directory assistance numbers.
- The incomplete form used for a website name in the Animainiacs song "LA Dot""You can find me on my webpage spot w w w dot dot dot
- Glenn Miller's song "PEnnsylvania 6-5000" was - and still is - the number of Manhattan's Hotel Pennsylvania (+1-212-PE6-5000) where the band often performed in their network radio broadcasts. The hotel in turn served (and was named for) a train station on the Pennsylvania Railroad.
- Aversion: The newspaper comic Dilbert once had a story line about a "Date-a-Dilbert" service. The cartoonist thought it needed a real phone number, so he put his own number in the strip. It got hundreds of calls, mostly from women who really wanted to date a Dilbert.
- In Ginger Meggs, one of Ginger's friends has a poster up saying "Missing since 4:00PM Ph: XXXX XXX XXX". The phone number is of a colleague of the cartoonist.
- Douglas Adams used a seven-digit number for a measurement of probability in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Due to the Infinite Improbability Drive, the number turned out to also be the phone number of the Islington flat where Arthur met Trillian at a party. Unfortunately, Adams averted the trope and used the number of his own flat, also in Islington. The official script book contains a footnote that the tenant who lives there now has nothing to do with Hitchhiker, and doesn't appreciate prank calls.
- In some editions of the five-book trilogy, Adams writes about how the whole story came to be. The anecdote concludes with a section called "How To Leave Earth." Adams suggests calling (in order) NASA, The White House, The Kremlin, and The Vatican, giving working phone numbers for each, averting the trope.
- Uplink does both of these. It uses random phone numbers in almost all ranges (02, 05, 06, 07, 08 and 09 from memory) - the avoiding of 01 is almost certainly to force an appearance of non-residential numbers (the only use of telephone numbers is for individual people's voicemail systems). It also uses bogus IP addresses all the way down to 0 and up to 999. It does get one IP address right, though - your own gateway is at 127.0.0.1, the local host loopback IP.
- In the licensed NES game of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, a clue tells you to call Jessica Rabbit at a certain 1-800 number. (Of course, this was an actual number that you, the player, were expected to call in Real Life so you could receive the necessary clues to continue the game. Many players, not knowing this, spent hours searching for an in-game phone that the characters could use. Guide Dang It indeed.)
- In the Nancy Drew computer games, all of the numbers you can call from Nancy's cell phone start with 555. Even the alphanumeric numbers for the 1930s telephone in Secret of the Old Clock convert to 555.
- Dial 1-555-MYSTICO and prepare to be amazed!
- In San Francisco Rush 2049 Tournament Edition, you are asked, as part of the process for creating an in-game account, to enter your phone number for tournaments (a feature that is now long-gone). If you enter 555 as your area code, you'll get a special message about it.
- Prefix, you mean?
- In games of the Grand Theft Auto series, if a Parody Commercial has a phone number, it's probably a real toll-free number. At the time of the game's release, calling the number would get you a recording relevant to the ad, typically giving more detail on the product.
- Played straight, however, in GTAIII with Fernando's New Beginnings
Fernando: "Call cinco cinco cinco nueve dos nueve dos"
- Played straight at one point in GTA San Andreas, when Carl is asked to plant some evidence and then give 555-We Tip a call.
- Played straight again in GTA IV. Aside the abundance of 555 phone numbers on shop fronts, every cheat code in the game is a 555 number.
- Every single dial-able phone number in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is a 555 number. Except Konami's help line.
- The Bar in Silent Hill 4 is a 555 number as well.
- The old Fahrenheit 451 text adventure (yes, it exists. Yes, Bradbury wrote a good chunk of it) had this as a plot point, complete with Zeerust flavor. Calling NYC-XXX was how Montag got in contact with certain members of the Underground. The game also included numbers which, when dialed, gave useful information, utter garbage, or fake "hints" that would get you killed if you tried them.
- The Manic Miner cheat code "6031769" is said to have been author Matthew Smith's (Liverpool) telephone number at the time.
- In his ending in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Taskmaster advertises his mercenary training academy with the number given as 555-TASK. He still gets lots of signups though, as in the next 'panel' he's rolling in money. Presumably these numbers work in the Marvel universe.
- Somehow averted in Ripper - Spoony points this out.
Spoony: For those of you playing at home, try calling these numbers and see who picks up!
- Parodied in the Homestar Runner episode "Senor Mortgage" with the number 555-55-55855-55-5-SENOR-MORT-GAGE-TODAY.
- An early version of an early Homestar cartoon advertising a (fake, at the time) album of Strong Bad's greatest hits featured a real phone number, 1-800-BAD-SONG. The Brothers Chaps had assumed that no one would actually try to call it. They changed the cartoon shortly after a limo company complained that people were calling trying to purchase the album. The new phone number is 1-800-555-SBSINGS.
- Ishmael's mother's number in Irregular Webcomic.
- This Subnormality comic: As North American area codes can't have 9 as a second digit, the number it uses [(590) 238-1665] isn't valid.
- The Adventures of Dr. McNinja goes all out: the main site for this webcomic currently features his fake phone number (301-555-4982), fake fax number (301-555-4983), fake address (23 Haunted Wood Drive), but then subverts the trope by taking place in the very real Cumberland, Maryland. (After teasing readers to figure out where the doctor practiced, future stories featured the doctor purchasing an MTO sandwich from Sheetz and noting that "The real mayor of Cumberland gave my family a dog once.")
- Write What You Know: Although the 555 exchange is obviously fictional, 301 is indeed the area code for Cumberland, Maryland.
- This Wapsi Square strip features an Ambulance Chaser named Marcus P. Smooze whose number is 555-5555.
- In El Goonish Shive, Sarah's number is 555-7272.
- In Girls with Slingshots unlucky guy Jim gets a number from a girl which contains area code 555. He doesn't realize that it's a fake.
- A Rugrats Christmas episode had the phone number 555-NOEL. Confused, Angelica just typed in 555-5555... and actually got someone.
- Also, the episode where Angelica thinks she's going to get a baby brother. She calls in to a psychology-type show using the number 555-5555 (again).
- The Simpsons also parodied this trope by having Chief Wiggum receive a lead in a case: a telephone number. "555- aw, geez, that's gotta be phony."
- Note that they got this number by using police equipment to trace the call. There's a reason that this man is the father of The Ditz.
- Another episode featured Marge making a call to Chief Wiggum, which resulted in him getting mad and demanding to know where she lived so that he could arrest her - Marge then slowly comes up with the address 123 Fake Street. This turns out to be an aversion, however, since later in the episode Bart and Milhouse try to hide out from some people at...123 Fake Street. Hilarity Ensues.
- Subverted and played straight regarding emergency numbers - one episode has Chief Wiggum not wanting to be disturbed while the lotto numbers are being drawn, so he answers the phone with - "Um...no...this is nine-one...two." But in the episode where Homer joins the Stonecutters, Carl tells Homer that he shouldn't call 911 anymore - he then hands him a card with the 'real' number on it: 912.
- Klondike 5 was used as Homer's number when working as Mr. Plow.
- Used in Danny Phantom in the episode The Ultimate Enemy. Mr. Lancer is making a phone call to Fentonworks and dials "555-1221".
- Gigi's number in Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law, as copied down off the bathroom wall by Harvey, is "555-0111".
- In the Family Guy episode "Three Kings", when Richard Dreyfuss gives Roy Scheider his phone number, he starts off with 555. At which point Roy just tells him that if Richard doesn't want to give him his real phone number, don't lie.
- Don't forget Alan Rickman's answering machine: "Hello. You've reached Alan Rickman at 555-0122."
- In Batman: The Animated Series, there is an episode where Joker says that after his laughing gas, people are even laughing at a phonebook. Harley Quinn proceeds to read a few entries; all the numbers, naturally, start with 555.
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron had the number for turning in convicts be 555-555-5555.
- In DuckTales (1987), the Beagle Boys advertised a teleporting gas as insect repellant with a commercial giving the number 555-5-555.
- In King of the Hill, Nancy Hicks-Gribble works for Channel 84, the joke being that prior to the 1980s, the highest channel that was issued to TV stations was 83. This could also be a joke on how "backwoodsy" Arlen is, given how low power stations in remote areas are/were usually stuck with high (undesirable) channel locations.
- Interestingly averted on an episode of Futurama. The writers didn't want to use a 555 number, so they made a number with one of the digits a Greek lambda (784-36λ9). It also made it seem more futuristic.
- In Regular Show all the telephone numbers in the episode "Cruisi'n" start with this.
- Cartographers have always had to worry about others plagiarizing and reselling their maps - the problem being that it's very difficult to legally prove if someone copies their work, and (thankfully) it's also not possible to copyright reality or facts (which is what maps are ultimately based on). There used to be a clever solution - the mapmakers would deliberately add a fake street in a nondescript area of the map. A fake street can be copyrighted, and if another map had the same fake street, it would give the original mapmaker solid proof of copyright infringement.
- It's still in use - Google Maps occasionally includes a one-way street that you can't drive onto, such as this one.
- One infamous example: Agloe originated as a mapmaker's prank at a small drafting company preparing maps for Esso (Exxon) petrol stations. Two of their workers scrambled their own initials and dropped them on some random gravel crossroads. The road was later paved and someone built a real store, named the Agloe General Store because the name was on the Esso map. The county then added the crossroads to their maps because of the store, and Rand McNally updated their maps to match the county map. The original drafting company sued Rand McNally, claiming copyright infringement, and lost because Agloe had become a real place. Eventually, the store closed and was torn down; Agloe then disappeared from the map, for real. Agloe went on to be featured in the fictional work Paper Towns by John Green.
- Zig-zagged: circa the 1960s, the telephone number of WCBS in New York City (excluding area code) was 765-4321.
- The IP blocks 192.0.2.*, 198.51.100.*, and 203.0.113.* (2001:db8::* in IPv6) are reserved for examples in documentation.
- As of early 2017, telephone scammers and spammers have been spotted using spoofed caller ID numbers starting with "555". This may be intentional on the part of the scammers—by using such an obviously fake number, they know that thoughtful people won't pick up, leaving only viewers who are morons, thus preventing the 'waste' of hours of phone time on people who won't fall for the old 'Nigerian Prince' scam. (Same reason that even sophisticated email spammers and scammers don't always bother cleaning up their grammar or spelling—anyone who cares is less likely to fall for the scam, so why bother spending effort on attracting their attention?)
- ('1' is a common prefix for long-distance calls and '0' is the operator)
- (This is because in these countries, all area codes start with a 0, allowing the phone system to recognize non-local calls and make the appropriate connections for them.)
- area code: 02 - NSW, ACT, 03 - VIC, TAS, 07 - QLD, 08 - SA, NT, WA
- UHF 83 was the worst possible spot on the dial. 70-83 were mostly used for low-power rebroadcasters to fill gaps in the main stations' coverage; no North American terrestrial originating station has ever signed on above UHF 79. Ultimately, these channels were completely removed (in the early 1980s) to accommodate mobile telephone service.