Get Your 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 Staples or the local print shop 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
Ever since the invention of email, fax machines have been a messy, wasteful nuisance. In some cases, the law requires old-school faxing for medical, legal or financial documents. But some offices stubbornly cling to this obsolete technology for exchanging documents, in spite of digital alternatives that are free. (If you deal with someone like that, send them my article 6 Reasons to Trash Your Fax Machine.)
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 1985... 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. No credit card is required to sign up. 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 software 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.
FaxBurner gives you a free fax number that forwards incoming faxes to your email. It can also direct inbound faxes to your iPhone or iPad. Yes, your inbound fax number is free. But it goes POOF! after 24 hours. You can upgrade to a premium plan to keep your number, or just request a new free fax number whenever you need one. Because of that, I'd recommend this service only for people who need to receive a fax on rare occasions. On the upside, FaxBurner's free service lets you send a fax as well, using email or their iPhone app.
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 be sure you click the button for eFax Free, and not a trial version of eFax Plus or Pro. One more point about eFax. When you receive a fax by email, the attachment has a ".EFX" extension, but it's actually in standard TIF format. Just change the file's extension back to ".tif" and open the file with Windows Photo Viewer. Then you won't have to install the eFax Messenger software.
Finally, I should mention that Windows has a Fax and Scan app that lets you to send and receive faxes. You can use it to send documents directly from Word or other Windows programs. Incoming faxes are displayed on screen, and can be filed or printed. The downside is that your computer must have a dial-up fax modem, and your computer must be connected to a phone line. You also have to make sure the Fax and Scan app is running when your inbound fax arrives. So obviously it's less than ideal.
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 13 Nov 2015
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Get Your Free Inbound Fax Number (Posted: 13 Nov 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved