Can you get sued for putting a real person's number in a novel? I see a lot of shows where they make up names like Boogle, instead of using Google, and I also often sees number being read as XXX-XXX-XXXX instead of real numbers or unrealistic numbers like 555-555-5555, so I was wondering if it's because you can get sued for putting a real person's number accidentally. Assume that the country is in the United States. I am thinking if there's no intent, then there's no legal case to be had, but I would like to make sure it's the case in every state in the United States.

  • Why would you not do at least a little due-diligence and verify that the number is not used? Seems like that alone would show negligence... I assume you are asking about the US (based on the number format)?
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 2:33
  • In practically every country, there is a set of phone numbers reserved for exactly this purpose - phone numbers that look valid, but are guaranteed not to be given out to anyone now or in the future. They are often used in TV shows or movies when someone is seen dialling a phone number.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 9:41
  • 1
    See urbo.com/content/… (Including examples of what can go wrong).
    – gnasher729
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 9:44
  • See "Last Action Hero", youtube.com/watch?v=G6PBhdM9Ftg starting at 0:39
    – DJohnM
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 16:27
  • Don't forget about Jenny Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 17:33

1 Answer 1


Obligatory "you can sue anyone for anything so what you're asking is would a suite be likely to win"

Yes, such a suit would be possible.

While there was no malice, there was arguably negligence. The author could have done any of the following:

  • Used a fake number like everyone else
  • Verified that the number was not in use
  • Used a number that they controlled so nobody else could use it

They chose not to. If this resulted in damages, such as the owner of the number being repeatedly harassed and having to change their number, there would definitely be a case.

  • The last two points aren't guaranteed to stay that way, though, and it gets trickier when you take into account things like area codes (in many works of fiction, especially in the US, the number will be only the "local" portion, and not include a wider-area code). Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 17:31

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