Get a Free Inbound Fax Number
A reader asks: 'I occasionally need to receive an inbound fax, but I don't own a fax machine. Going to Kinko's or the local drugstore to pick up a fax is a nuisance, and nothing is private there. Is there some way to get my faxes online, but still have a real phone number that people can use to send faxes to me? Oh, and free is nice...' The answer is YES -- and here's how to get your own free fax number...
Get Your FREE Inbound Fax Number and Receive Faxes for Free
Yes, you can get inbound faxes delivered to you electronically, for free. There are several ways to get a free fax number that will forward incoming faxes to you via email or web, and the senders will never know you don't have a real fax machine. Fax machines are so 1990... free online faxing (both inbound and outbound) is the way the cool kids do it now. :-)
One option for free inbound fax to email service is K7. Sign up for a free account, and you'll get your own private incoming fax number, which you can give to anyone who wants to send you a fax. You can choose to receive incoming faxes in your email inbox, read them on the K7 website, or both. K7 can also act as a free voice mailbox, but if you plan to use K7 only for incoming faxes, select the Fax Only (fax tone only, no message) option when creating your account.
K7 is truly free, but there are some limitations on the service. First, you must activate your new K7 number by sending a voice or fax message within 72 hours, or it will be terminated for non-use. Also, your K7 number must receive at least one incoming voice or fax call every 30 days, or the account will be terminated. (If your account is terminated, you can register online for a new account, but you probably won't get the same number.)
FaxBetter offers a free toll free fax number to anyone. Faxes are received in your email inbox as a PDF attachment. That's pretty standard, but what separates FaxBetter is that all faxes received are OCRed. This means the actual text from the fax is extracted by Optical Character Recognition and is then embedded into the body of the email, thus making the email searchable in your email program (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, etc.). The free service is limited to 20 incoming pages per month, and you have to receive a fax every 7 days to keep your free toll free fax number. Unfortunately, the ability to forward faxes to your email inbox is only free for 30 days. But you can still retrieve your incoming faxes on the FaxBetter website.
eFax is another well known free fax service online. They offer three different account types. The eFax FREE account, also referred to as their Limited Account, will provide you with a non-local fax line and up to 10 incoming fax pages. But be aware that they call it "Limited" for a good reason. If you receive more than 10 fax pages in any thirty day period, eFax may terminate or suspend your account if you do not upgrade to a paid subscription service. The eFaxPro package will let you receive 200 faxes a month and will allow you to send faxes from your email for less than $20 per month. The eFaxPlus program is a few dollars cheaper per month and will let you receive up to 150 faxes per month, as well as send faxes through your email account. You can also bring an existing number to eFax, if you want to junk your dinosaur fax machine and go digital.
NOTE: Lots of people write to me and say eFax is not free! But it really is. You just have to scroll down to the bottom of the page, where it says "Fill Out This Form to Start Using eFax Free." Don't click the red buttons to sign up for a paid or trial account.
Finally, there's Voxox. This option requires you to download a "client" app that runs on your PC, Mac, Android or iPhone. After starting the client and creating your account, you'll need to provide a mobile number to get an activation code in a text message. Enter that code, and under "My Numbers" you'll see your free Voxox number. It's a bit confusing, but there is no need to buy credits or a virtual number.
Login to the Voxox client with the username and password you specified earlier. Click File / Preferences / Notifications, then check the box(es) on the "New Fax" line for email and/or text notifications of incoming faxes. Incoming faxes are directed to your inbox, and can also be viewed with the Voxox client. Vovox doesn't seem to have any limits on the number of incoming faxes, but I found the process of having to download the software, create an account, figure out that I didn't really need to buy credits, a bit confusing. It also took a lot of bouncing back and forth between the Vovox website and the Vovox client app to discover that I needed to configure the fax-to-email option before incoming faxes would be forwarded to my email inbox.
Almost Free, But Maybe Better
My favorite inbound fax service is Faxaway. This company has been in business since 1995 and despite their "Web 0.9" website, the service is rock solid. Sign up for a Faxaway account and it will allow you to receive faxes and voicemails via your email account. The only catch is that it's not quite free, but it is really cheap. There is a small account maintenance charge of $1 monthly, but here's why I think that's a bargain: Unlike the other free inbound faxing services listed here, there's no limit to the number of inbound faxes you can receive, and your Faxaway number will never expire.
Like the other services, Faxaway gives you a real fax number that you can give to anyone who wants to send a fax to you. When that fax number receives an inbound fax, Faxaway answers the call, saves the fax as a TIF image, and forwards it on to your email address. I don't care if they do it with computers, pigeons or monkeys -- it just works every time. The only downsides are no OCR capability, and you probably won't get a local fax number. Mine is in a Seattle area code, and I'm in New York, but that's never been a problem for me. I've had a Faxaway account for years, and have always enjoyed the service without any interruptions.
I live out of my inbox, so it's nice to be able to search and refer back to faxes I received a while ago. Oh, and I get to choose whether or not they are printed. If you've ever come home and found 100 junk faxes piled on the floor beneath your fax machine, unplug that beast and make the switch to email-based incoming faxes.
In addition to Faxaway, eFax and the others mentioned in this article, there are other fax-to-email services, some of which offer free trials. I can't personally recommend any of those because I have not used them. If you've found one that you like, feel free to post a comment below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 12 Nov 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Get a Free Inbound Fax Number (Posted: 12 Nov 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved