[HOWTO] Get a Secret Second 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.

Burner offers disposable phone numbers that use your cellular service. 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 "Sample Burner," after which your number is "burned." It appears that one can repeat this as often as desired. For more permenant solutions, a subscription plan or pre-paid credits must be purchased to use the service. There’s a bewildering array of service options and credit prices. The 1-Line Subscription option gives you unlimited calls, texts, and pictures for $4.99/month.

Add a second line to your phone

Sideline lets you add a second number to your smartphone for calling and texting. Sideline uses your cellular carrier network, but you can switch to WiFi if your cellular signal is weak. Individuals pay $9.99/month for ad-free service. A Sideline number has its own voicemail inbox, and voicemail-to-text message transcription. For businesses, one account owner can manage multiple Sideline numbers. “Team” numbers, as they’re called, can be integrated with the Salesforce customer relationship management service.

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; "virtually unlimited" calling minutes; unlimited text and picture messaging; group calling and messaging; international calling; call blocking and forwarding. 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.

Magic Jack is an option to consider if you don't have a mobile phone, or if you don't want your second line to be associated with a mobile phone. Magic Jack is a gadget you plug into your computer, and then plug a standard phone handset into it. It uses your Internet connection to make and receive phone calls. The device costs $35, and includes 12 months of service. After the first year, you can renew for $39 annually. Magic Jack can be used as a second line, but most people use it as a low-cost replacement for their landline service.

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 transcriptions; 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 "[HOWTO] Get a Secret Second Phone Number"

Posted by:

07 Feb 2018

You could also get a free number at TextNow.com. In addition to getting the number, you'll be able to send texts and make/receive phone calls on a variety of devices. The one catch: You have to use it every few days or you'll lose the number.

Posted by:

Bob K
07 Feb 2018

If you are considering Magic Jack, you might want to consider NetTalk. About the same idea, with prices about the same -- but slight differences.

I have a 2nd line for the Fax machine. When I got the NT for that, MJ wasn't supporting fax. NT said "why not"?

That second line of mine doesn't get used much, but have never had a problem. When I temporarily lost the landline, I simply went online and forwarded inbound calls to the NT line.

Biggest problem with both MJ and NT are all outbound calls must be dialed as 10-digit numbers.

Posted by:

07 Feb 2018

I’ve used Google Voice for about ten years and have been mostly very happy with it. Its best feature is the ability to record incoming calls and save them as MP3 files.

I used to work for a company that had a very aggressive and deceitful employee scheduling department (shift work). They would do anything, up to shouting and threatening employees to intimidate them into working on one of few scheduled days off. I grew tired of being expected to fix their poor staffing decisions, so I stopped it with Google Voice: when a scheduler called, the first thing they heard was, “This call is now being recorded,” followed by my cheery, “Hello.” There was usually a pregnant pause, followed by a remarkably cordial conversation!

Posted by:

Gary Matthews
07 Feb 2018

Great article, Bob, as usual -- but one minor point is out of date: Google Voice does now send and receive picture messages.

As a long-time GV user, I found the lack of picture messages annoying, and so was happy when Google added that long-overdue feature maybe a year ago or so.

Thanks for the information on alternatives!

Posted by:

B. Smoak
07 Feb 2018

Mr. Rankin:
When you refer to handset do you mean an old fashioned, box-like phone or can I use a wireless (home) phone to plug in for Magic Jack or Net Talk? I would be very pleased to be able to use a headset connected to my computer to take care of phone calls and continue working seamlessly. I'm open to suggestions!

Posted by:

Louise Smith
07 Feb 2018

I use Google Voice "the other way around." I have a Google number that rings both my cell and home phone and I only give out the GOOGLE NUMBER. If only the "listed" home phone rings, it is a robo call and I do not answer.

Posted by:

Ryan James
07 Feb 2018

For we ex-pat North Americans such as myself, I use iPlum. This is an app for Android and iPhone. This gives me a US phone number on my Hungarian mobile phone, which I can use like a normal US number.

My main objective for getting it is that I travel a great deal. When I make a bank transaction, my bank needs to send a code to my mobile phone. My Hungarian phone does not have international service. The iPlum comes to the rescue.

Also, Google and many credit cards insist on sending a code to authorize it is me, when my IP address is different. As long as I have WiFi, I am connected to get those codes with the iPlum.

Since many of my friends and family have "anytime - anywhere USA/Canada minutes" on their cell plans, they can call my US number for free.

Basic service is $1.60 a month via Google Play Store.

Posted by:

07 Feb 2018

I've discovered through calling my cellphone voicemail, a different number sometimes pops up on the caller ID. I have called that number and it rings my cellphone. I think what happened, I was originally assigned a number when I signed up with Republic Wireless, and when I moved my old number from Sprint to Republic Wireless, the assigned number never got turned off, so both numbers will ring my cellphone!! :)

Posted by:

Samuel R Snyder
07 Feb 2018

I have Google Voice and so far so good. My Internet went down and so did the GV service. That is the only downside I see. It is now my landline and only give out to trusted entities. Haven't had a junk call yet in nearly one year. My wired landline was receiving numerous junk calls, very annoying. I know there are numerous other services GV offers but I enjoy basically having junk free phone service that is like sitting next to the call, that crystal clear.

Posted by:

07 Feb 2018

i use textnow as my second number after all i have to give my girlfriends a number

Posted by:

07 Feb 2018

I have a land line, although I doubt it works any more (do not have a phone to connect to it). AT&T land line, but with a little challenge - the line in has been ripped up so many times by the road grader AT&T does not repair anymore, so I usually give out that number to those I really want to email me the info (for documentation sense) and not call me.

Posted by:

08 Feb 2018

I recently bought a new truck. The truck now has it's own phone which stays in it, and it is the 3rd line on my Ting account. With the 3rd line my phone bill has jumped all the way to 33.00 a month. Ting was your suggestion Bob and thanks again for that. That 33.00 is total, not per line.

Posted by:

08 Feb 2018

I live outside the USA, but I need to make and receive a lot of calls from the US. My cell service provider gave me a virtual number in the US My Google Voice number forwards to that number, and this way I can get calls from the USA, with my family and friends making local calls to reach me on my cell overseas!

Posted by:

08 Feb 2018

My VOIP provider allows me to add a second (possibly more) phone number that I can give out only to whom I chose, at no extra cost. I also can forward our regular number to my cell, and can choose whether I want cell and home phone to ring or just the cell. I am very pleased with the service.

Posted by:

08 Feb 2018

Get a Google phone number. Use it with your computer to make/receive calls through the Google Hangouts site. Download the Hangouts app and do the same on a tablet. (Use a Bluetooth earpiece with either of them, instead of the speaker whenever wanting privacy.)

All calls are free when the devices connect to WiFi or using a little of your data plan when connected to 4G or LTE. (Regardless, no cellular minutes can be charged on either device.) As a bonus, you can also do video calls with others who are using the Hangouts site or the app. and they work cross-platform (unlike FaceTime).

Got rid of all other phones (including cell phones) nearly 4 years ago and replaced them with two Google numbers. Never regretted the decision. Been very happy without any huge monthly cell phone bills, too.

Posted by:

08 Feb 2018

I should clarify my post above, regarding making/receiving calls, text and MMS through Google Hangouts: The other person does NOT need to be using Hangouts in order to share those functions. The only time both parties need to be using Hangouts, is for video calls.

Posted by:

Mr. T
09 Feb 2018

Google Voice only works in the USA. On the other hand , the (ios and googleplay) app Talkatone gives you a number in a Canada or the USA free(with ads or ad free for a cost) that lets you call or sms any number on North America. I've used it for years and I love it. Great quality calls.

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