You should keep your phone number private to avoid scammers – Here’s how

Too many people have your phone number. Beyond the friends and loved ones you knowingly shared it with, how many accounts have you signed up with over the years, and how many times did you put your phone number on a form?

The more your number is floating around, the more exposed you are to scammers, creeps and cybercriminals. But no matter how long you’ve had your current phone number, it’s never too late to start being more discrete with it. It is recommend keeping your number private as much as you can. Read on for tips on how to do that.

Google Voice

Google Voice is a free service that gives you a phone number that you can use anywhere for anything. It works for both domestic and international phone calls as well as texts and voicemails. You can get Google Voice for iOS and Android. All you need is a Google account to get started.

Then follow these steps:

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  • Download the Google Voice app for iOS or Android.
  • Open the app and sign in to your Google account.
  • Review the terms of privacy and tap Accept or Continue to proceed.
  • Tap Search to choose a phone number from the list. You can search by city or area code.
  • Tap Select next to the phone number you want.
  • Verify the number and enter a phone number to link to your Voice account.
  • You’ll get a six-digit code to enter for the next step. Enter it and you’re done.

Now you can use your Google Voice number however you please. Give it to new contacts and companies/services you do business with or use it for your own business if you have one. People can use your burner number to connect to your phone without having your real number.

Burner apps

A burner app gives you a second phone number and uses your internet data or Wi-Fi to make and receive calls and texts. You can use it temporarily or long term. A burner number is great for online dating, shopping, web forms, transportation apps, social media and more. We recommend the Burner and Hushed apps.

Burner is one of the most popular apps of its kind on iOS and Android. You can route your calls directly to your secondary number, so you don’t even need to hide them. The app comes with a 7-day free trial, and plans start at $4.99 per month for one line or $47.99 for one year.

Hushed for iOS and Android lets you create numbers from all over the world, so you can go outside your area code or the U.S. if you’d like. Access your Hushed numbers from anywhere there’s a Wi-Fi connection.

A prepaid plan starts at $1.99 for 7 days and comes with bundled minutes for local calls and texts. You can step up to unlimited talk and text ($3.99 per month) and international service ($4.99 per month).

Keep your real number for yourself

You’ll need your real phone number for things that matter, such as your medical and financial accounts and records. Use your discretion, but you don’t need to give anyone your real number for the most part.

When in doubt, make up a phone number. Do you know those online forms that don’t let you proceed unless you put in a number? Just fill it out with 555-555-5555 or something like that. There’s no need to give them your phone number just because they’re asking for it.

If a site or service requires two-factor authentication (2FA), set it up to go to your email address or burner number. Even in the case of securing your account, you don’t need to use your real number.

A burner account for your email

Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook provide you with free email accounts, but you pay for the service with something else — your privacy. We recommend StartMail, an ad-free email service that doesn’t collect or share your data with third parties. Nobody can track you or build a personal profile of you.

Once you delete an email, it’s gone for good. Your inbox and folders are encrypted and stored in their own “vault,” which not even StartMail can access.

You can create burner accounts to share disposable email addresses while keeping your legit address confidential. This works just like a burner number. Use your burner email address for virtually any situation.

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