Disposable Phone Numbers for Maximum Privacy

You can find many uses for disposable phone numbers to maintain your privacy: selling items on Craigslist, setting up a blind date, wives hiding from abusive husbands, celebrities who do not wish to be swamped with calls and text messages from fans or the press, or simply keeping a private number only known to select friends and family members.

Another use is for tourists and business people traveling in foreign countries: you can obtain a disposable number in the country you are visiting at low cost. That is the number you provide to tour guides, hotels, airlines, restaurants, and others. The number typically disappears a few days after you are gone. Finally, many people prefer to have two numbers, one for business and one for personal calls, without having to carry two cell phones. (I have two numbers on my cell phone just for that purpose although I have had the second number for several years, not as a throw-away temporary number.)

In the past, the normal method of obtaining a temporary number was to purchase a “disposable” cell phone that requires no contract, such as what we see hanging in blister packs at convenience stores, drug stores, truck stops, and many other places. These are often called “burner phones.” Use them as long as they are needed and then throw them away.

Now you can do the same thing without buying a phone: simply obtain a “burner number” for your Android phone or iPhone. Install a small app and your phone becomes two phones in one: your normal cell phone number plus the new “burner number.” When the phone rings, you can look at the phone to see which number is ringing and then decide if you want to answer it or not. Once you no longer have a need for the temporary number, you may either cancel it or simply stop paying for it. Either way, the number is canceled. Companies that provide “burner numbers” do not require their customers to sign long-term contracts.

Here are two different companies offering “burner numbers:”

BurnerBurner is a simple-to-install and simple-to-use service that was named a TIME Magazine Top 50 App of 2013 and has been featured in the New York Times, Wired, Engadget, BoingBoing, Lifehacker, and more. You can simultaneously use one, two or more burner numbers in one phone. The app is free with a seven-day trial, additional burners require credits, which can be purchased in-app starting at $2. Credits are used to buy packages ranging from 60 texts plus 20 talk minutes for 14 days, up to an unlimited 30-day burner. MMS messaging is available as an option.

Burner only works on cell phone connections, not by wi-fi. Therefore, it cannot be used on iPad or iPod touch devices. It also only works in the U.S. (except for Puerto Rico) and Canada.

The Burner app requires no contracts; uses may cancel the service at any time.

Burner for iPhone may be found at https://itunes.apple.com/app/id505800761?mt=8 while Android users will want to look at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.adhoclabs.burner&hl=en.

hushed-appHushed for both iPhone and Android provides FREE Private Messaging, disposable phone & texting for 5 days. Obviously, you can extend the phone number(s) by paying modest fees: $1.99 for an additional 7 days, $3.99 for 30 days, or $29.99 for 365 days. (Those rates are for North America only). The company offers disposable numbers in more than 40 other countries as well.

Hushed also offers customizable voicemail, call forwarding & SMS text messaging at no extra cost. Hushed requires no contracts; uses may cancel the service at any time.

Unlike Burner, Hushed can work on either cellular connections or wi-fi network connections which can save a lot of money in cell phone minutes, especially when roaming in foreign countries. Connections via wi-fi may be free. If not, the wi-fi changes are almost always much lower than roaming charges from the local cellular network.

You can learn more about Hushed at http://hushed.com.

Other services that offer second numbers for cell phones although typically not for short-term disposable uses

Line2 also provides a second number for your cell phone although it appears to be geared more for long-term use, not as a “burner number” to be used for only a few days. Line2 ‘s prices are higher than either Hushed or Burner but offer unlimited texting and inbound phone calls. Line2 does limit the user to 5,000 outbound voice minutes per month although I would not consider that to be much of a limitation. 5,000 minutes is more than 83 hours of outbound calls. If you need more than that, you don’t need a cell phone! You need a business phone system.

Line2 only offers US and Canadian phone numbers. It does work over both wi-fi and cellular connections. Line2 is available for $9.95 a month for personal use of $14.95 a month for business use. 7-day free trials are available.

You can learn more about Line2 at https://www.line2.com.

Grasshopper is aimed primarily at business users, allowing your cell phone to become your “mobile office.” It essentially converts your cell phone into an extension on your company’s PBX phone system. You can obtain multiple extensions, one for everyone on your team. Prices vary from $6 per month to $199 a month.

You can learn more about Grasshopper at http://grasshopper.com.

One more option

Finally, there is another option that is easy to obtain although I would suggest it be used only for long-term use, not as a disposable “burner number.” Sign up for an Internet VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service from any of the dozens of VoIP providers. These services primarily are used to provide low-cost telephone service in the home or office. Most of them either offer a cell phone app or will recommend a cell phone app from some other company that will work with the VoIP company’s service. Use the app to receive and make phone calls wherever you are.

Ooma_logoI use Ooma as my only phone service at home (other than the cell phone) and it works well. However, I also installed Ooma’s app in my cell phone and I can answer calls or make calls anywhere I have cell phone coverage or am within range of a moderately fast wi-fi connection. Best of all, it uses my home phone number. I now have two numbers working simultaneously in my cell phone: the normal cell phone number and my home phone number as provided by Ooma’s mobile app.

Using the Ooma mobile app on wi-fi connections has saved me a LOT of money when I used it in England, Canada, Israel, and New Zealand. It is rather convenient to be walking down the streets in London, Jerusalem, or Christchurch and being able to answer calls made to your home phone or business phone! Or both.

You can learn more about Ooma at http://www.ooma.com and especially at http://support.ooma.com/office/ooma-office-mobile-app/.

Whatever method you use, the idea of having two or more telephone numbers assigned to one cell phone is appealing for many different purposes.

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