Have you recently received phone calls or text messages from phone numbers you don’t recognize? I surely have.
Most of them were spams, while some were scams. And the thing is, I don’t really know how they got a hold of my phone number. It could either be stolen from one of those infamous hacks and data leaks or resold by companies/services I use or subscribed to.
Most of us don’t have time and money to dive deep into legal battles against spammers and scammers. So, an alternative is to play our own game utilizing all available tools, including the use of a fake phone number for verification or/and registration. You can do the same with emails. Below are some options to consider.
Before all the fancy services, Textfree dominated the free virtual phone number market. You can download their app and get a phone number. It allows you to receive text messages and inbound calls for free. Although, you’d need to use that number at least once a month. Otherwise, it’ll be reclaimed after 30 days of inactivity. It shouldn’t be an issue for most of users because you could always get a new one.
One cool thing about Textfree: You don’t need a main phone number to use it. For example, with Google Voice, Burner, and Hushed you need to have your real number linked to them. You can sign up with Textfree using an email. This provides an extra layer of privacy protection.
This one is similar to Textfree. Textnow also allows users to sign up by using emails. I like this kind of service because of extra privacy safeguards. You may think it’s not a big deal. But, just like any company/services, these free phone services could get hacked or sell/exchange your data.
It sounds paradoxical that companies that provide second phone numbers to protect your privacy may also trade your data with other companies. Remember this: Any for-profit organization focuses on making money. If they get a good offer, they’ll sell your data.
Practice cautions, especially with free services. They are free for a reason – to collect as much data as possible. And no one knows what they plan to do with that data. But one can make an educated guess that an obvious way to make money with people’s data is to sell it.
With Textfree and Textnow you have more control by using an email for signup. I recommend to use a separate email too for this. Double layer of protection.
If you have a Gmail account, you can easily get a virtual phone number for free. Essentially, Google Voice gives you a second number which is attached to your Gmail account. You can install their app to make and receive calls and text messages. They also give you an opportunity to pick your area code and number, which is really neat. More than that, you can record phone calls and convert them into text. Their voice-to-text feature also works for voicemails.
I personally use Google Voice number often for all kind of signups, registrations, subscriptions, etc. I still use the same number I have from years ago and get a bunch of calls. Some of the most popular ones lately are allegedly from IRS and police trying to corner me into paying off debts. Otherwise, they’ll arrest me or seize my assets, etc.
I’m experienced with such kind of things and not intimidated at all. But I can totally see how people get scammed by these goons. Nowadays, I have “Do not disturb” feature on all the time. It sends all the calls to voicemail and doesn’t interfere with my primary phone number.
This is one of the most popular apps out there. You can guess from its name that it offers “burner” phone numbers. Burner gives you a free disposable phone number for limited period of time. After which, you can purchase extra credits to make it permanent.
If you need to sign up for something trivial, where your phone number is not a primary method of contact, then you get a Burner number for a quick one-time verification. Don’t share your main number with companies unless you really have to.
Hushed offers features similar to Burner. You can get a phone number for free for three days. That should be enough to get verified with a third-party service. Their paid plan starts at $1.99 for seven days.
Now, if you don’t need fancy phone features and just want to receive a text message, then you could use one of websites that offers free numbers to receive sms online without installing an app. Keep in mind that these services usually display all received messages publicly. Below are some of the most popular sites for receiving sms online for free.
To protect your personal data, including your phone number, you need to stay vigilant. Use all available options out there to avoid spam and scam calls and text messages.
If you want to stay as anonymous as possible, then you should use services that don’t require their users to have an existing phone number.
Stay cautious and protect your data.