Do You Need A Secret Phone Number?

Category: Telephony

To avoid identity theft, you may take special pains to keep your Social Security Number private. But what about your phone number? Increasingly, phone numbers are being used to invade your private space, and con you out of money. Here's how to get a second “secret" phone number for free, or at least on the cheap…

Add a Second Line to Your Mobile Phone

We all know we're supposed to keep Social Security numbers private. But your phone number can also be used to to link together data about you, collected by a myriad of entities. So you might consider hiding your real phone number, and using a second number for online purchases, and business or government contacts. Ask your phone carrier how much they would charge to give you a second phone line. If it's even a possibility, it will cost WAY more than you'd likely want to pay. But here are several ways to get a second phone number (or as many as you like) without breaking the bank.

Sideline is free for individuals. Of course, that means the user is the product; advertisers pay Sideline to make you listen to brief ads before your call goes through. Free service includes unlimited calling and texting; you never pay Sideline for calls or texts. However, Sideline uses your cellular carrier network by default, switching to available WiFi only if cellular signal is too weak. Individuals can pay $2.99/month for ad-free service. A Sideline number has its own voicemail inbox; voicemail-to-text message transcription is $2.99/month.

Add a second line to your phone

For $9.99/month per number, one account owner (such a business) can manage multiple ad-free Sideline numbers. “Team” numbers, as they’re called, can be integrated with Salesforce.com customer relationship management service. International calling is a 15.99/month option (“coming soon” for free accounts). Voicemail-to-text message costs $2.99/month.

Burner offers disposable phone numbers that use your cellular service, like Sideline. You may want a disposable Burner number for blind dates, or Craigslist contacts, or some other situation in which there’s a possibility you’ll want to “burn” the phone number you give to another party. A burner number can send and receive calls, text messages, and MMS (picture) messages. A user can have as many Burner numbers as desired, and “nuke” any of them at the touch of a button.

Burner offers a 7-day free trial. After that, credits must be purchased in-app to use the service. There’s a bewildering array of service options and credit prices. The Premium option gives you unlimited calls, texts, and pictures for $4.99/month.

Other "Add a Line" Options

If you're concerned about privacy, don't stop with a second or disposable phone number. See my article Fight Spam With a Disposable Email Address to learn about your options for obscuring your email address.

Line 2 is a VoIP-based service; it does not consume cellular minutes, but it will use cellular data if it can’t connect to a WiFi network. For $8.30/month you get one U.S. or Canadian phone number; 5,000 calling minutes; unlimited text and picture messaging; group callling and messaging; international calling; call forwarding, screening and “more.”

Additional features for business users include simultaneous call forwarding; add/remove multiple lines; a toll-free number that supports texting; auto-attendant and dial-by-name directory; and after-hours call handling. This Pro plan costs $12.45/month per number.

CallingVault focuses on privacy and giving users control over who can make their phones ring. All call to a CallVault number go to voicemail by default. If you want the owner of a particular number to be put through to your phone, you create a contact record for that number and person and turn on call-forwarding to your phone’s real number. Any number can be blocked at any time. The “Instant Access” feature puts all callers who are not blocked and all contacts that are set to “call forward” through to your phone instead of sending them to voicemail; this enables realtors, for example, to receive calls from potential clients immediately, while sending known unwanted callers to voicemail.

CallingVault costs $39/year, which works out to $3.25/month. But then you have to add minutes and texts in increments of 250, 500, or 1000.

If you like “free” and don’t need to send or receive picture messages, Google Voice may be your best choice for a second phone number. You get a second phone number of your choice (subject to availability); voicemail-to-email transcrptions; incoming and outgoing calls and texts, but no picture messages. Call-forwarding and do-not-disturb can be enabled. Google Voice automatically blocks many known "spammy" callers, but you can also block as many unwanted incoming numbers as you like.

I use Google Voice in a slightly different way. My home landline number is forwarded to Google Voice, and incoming calls ring on both my computer and mobile phone. That ensures that I never miss a call to my home number, and I get all the benefits of voicemail transcription and call blocking.

Will you get a second (or third, or fourth) phone number to help maintain your privacy? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Do You Need A Secret Phone Number?"

Posted by:

Sidney Morrison
12 Dec 2016

I have a Magic Jack znumbet. It is cheap annual rate. No phone needed after set up! If callers leave a message you will have that voice message in your email inbox in sbout 30 seconds that ypu can playback over & over! Good to leave at places ypu do notbeant to really talk too but need a number to get info ypu want from web etc!


Posted by:

EJ
12 Dec 2016

It's all getting way to complicated. My annoyance comes from the fact that I am paying for this number, data, etc. and the robo calls, scammers use it more than I do. I understand why people "go off the grid"


Posted by:

bobdeloyd
12 Dec 2016

I've been using Google Voice since it was Grand Central. I can make calls for free in the US and Canada. Google voice is a fantastic service.


Posted by:

Liz
12 Dec 2016

I have to agree with EJ! I am really worn out with having to worry about my "data", my computer, my phone-and God knows what my toaster is secretly planning with North Korea! Plus my kids and all of the above by a factor of ten. For all its uses and convenience I'm about ready to give the internet back. Many many thanks to you Bob. You are the only reason I'm able to keep my head above water!


Posted by:

Bernie Crowley
12 Dec 2016

Slightly off topic, but if you want to make inexpensive phone calls across the United States, Pennytalk charges one cent a minute ($0.01) for calls from both your cell and home phone. International calls are also available.

http://www.pennytalk.com/


Posted by:

Georjina
12 Dec 2016

I've been with Google Voice also since it was Grand Central with no problems. Tried the Skype thing, dropped more calls than my cell phone carrier. Magic Jack may be another option at some point, however with these "nickel and dime" charges, it's hard to believe most of this junk is really necessary.


Posted by:

RandiO
12 Dec 2016

Would an unlocked Android phone with dual SIM cards (e.g. ZTE Axon7) be an alternate solution to this "need" for 2 phone numbers?
You can even swap SIM cards on the fly *using prepaid SIM Kits, including Net10, H2O, GoPhone, SimpleWireless, etc.
............when NOT using WiFi, gVoice and/or VoIP/LAN calls.


Posted by:

DFEdwin
13 Dec 2016

As a grateful Australian long term reader of your site, I will be pleased if you will consider indicating in each of your articles, when they are not relevant in countries outside USA.


Posted by:

WH
13 Dec 2016

This may all go bad, but I just got a Freedompop (Sprint) cell phone as a backup/alternative to my primary Tracfone (Verizon). The Freedompop phone will call using VOIP on my home wifi, or if there's no wifi it will use Sprint's data network to make a VOIP call. It also gets me an alternate, sacrificial phone number for incoming calls. The phone was $30 and supposedly I can get a minimal amount of monthly minutes for free - that's where it might all go bad if there's too much up-sell.

I also have a Google Voice phone in the house that works great. I promised my wife a lot of redundancy because we're in a weak spot for any cell carrier. Now we can call using Verizon, Sprint or Google Voice/cable.


Posted by:

Butch
13 Dec 2016

It seems that "Everyone" thinks "everybody" has a cell/smart phone, laptop, IOT "thingies," etc. Some of us old dinosaurian types (i.e., "old fogies") are blessedly free of all the hassles depicted above.


Posted by:

john silberman
13 Dec 2016

Burner sounds interesting. Google Voice is great as noted. Other freebies include TextFree and TextNow. Actually, I think the options are endless.


Posted by:

Bob K
13 Dec 2016

As far as VoIP services, along with the MagicJack service, there is also NetTalk. Just about the same price, and some advantages. I tried MagicJack, and switched over to NetTalk. With either of these you do need some form of broadband internet service. But, for 3 bucks a month, you can't go far wrong.


Posted by:

Rob
14 Dec 2016

All of this technology is proving to be a major waste if time, privacy, and money. Following a surgery, my wife turned off the ringer on our land line and left the answering machine do the work. Legitimate callers leave a message. Scammers and telemarketers hang up. The silenced ringer is now permanent. For my flip-phone, the same treatment. If number is not in my list, I let the caller leave a message. The vast majority do not bother. Sooooo much less distraction and aggravation. All this technology is making us stupid, distracted, unsafe and is wasting our money. See this URL:
http://www.legalcurrent.com/aba-techshow-keynote-speaker-nicholas-carr/ Peace


Posted by:

Clairvaux
31 Dec 2016

Having an alternate or disposable phone number is, indeed, a major security precaution.

However, none of the services you mentioned, as far as I have been able to work out, are available for users outside of the United States (and sometimes Canada).

This major restriction is usually buried deep down into their sites. It's funny that in this day and age, some cutting-edge Internet businesses still haven't grasped that their sites can, and indeed are, viewed by people all over the world, many of them using English as a vehicular language.

Does anyone know of a provider of disposable phone numbers serving European customers ? I'm looking for one.


Posted by:

Rich S
04 Feb 2017

I have a 2 Callcentric (free for incoming with telemarketing block)and a Google Voice # using Voiper/Hangouts on my Android devices and Callcentric, Google Voice and a landline on my Obi110 with custom call routing in my Mexican home connected to my Panasonic DECT phone system.

Cell phones connected to DECT via Bluetooth.

Any of the 5 DECT handsets or any 2 BT devices can answer or initiate any call to anywhere in the world.

For $5 USD/mo I get unlimited voice and text to the US, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico with 600mb of data for VOIP, email, etc.
Also includes WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, etc for free.

I've had Callcentric since well before Google/Grand Central existed and love the quality and service.


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