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.

5 ways to stop bots and spammers from calling you all day long

If you answer the phone when an unknown number calls, robots probably love you. Nowadays, when you answer the phone, it’s likely a robocall spammer. They have a ton of nasty tricks up their sleeve, from posing as a member of the IRS to lying about your car’s warranty.

No matter what mask a robot wears, its end goal is the same: to snatch your money away. They’re shockingly successful. Research from Statista found that Americans lost $19.7 billion to scam calls in 2020.

Scammers are using more sophisticated tricks than ever before, so the issue is escalating. Tap or click here to find out why robocalls spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, there are five helpful techniques to help you put an end to robocalls.

1. Take advantage of carrier tools

The best way to stop robocalls is to look at your carrier’s resources. Each of the four major companies has tools you can use to identify, filter and prevent robocall numbers. Some carriers make you pay an extra monthly fee to activate these services, but network-level blocking is free of charge across all the carriers.

AT&T

AT&T subscribers can use a free iOS and Android app called AT&T Call Protect. This lets you manually block unwanted calls. Plus, it has automatic fraud blocking and suspected spam warnings.

Other free options include:

  • Scanning and blocking suspected scam calls and robocallers.
  • Advance warnings of potential telemarketers or spam calls.
  • Non-contacts can be sent straight to voicemail.
  • Customized blocklists.
  • Reporting robocalls that make it through the filters.

Want even more protection? Drop $3.99 a month, and you can try out Call Protect Plus, which includes the above features, plus:

  • Alerts that tell you how likely it is an incoming call is spam.
  • More details about “unknown” callers.
  • Reverse number lookup.
  • Customized call filter options.

Verizon

If you’re a Verizon user, you need to check out its Call Filter app. So far, it has identified and blocked 300 million scammy phone numbers.

Here are features you’ll get with the free options:

  • Identifying unknown numbers by name, if possible.
  • Scanning and blocking suspected incoming scam calls.
  • Reporting robocalls that make it through your filters.
  • Reverse number lookup.

Or you can buy one of two options. Pay $2.99 per month per line or $7.99 per month for three or more lines, and you can use Call Filter Plus. This includes:

  • Spam lookup gives you access to more than 100 million known spam callers from Verizon’s database.
  • Blocking unknown numbers once and memorizing the numbers for the future.
  • Rank callers based on robocall likelihood.

T-Mobile & Sprint

Since T-Mobile and Sprint are now one company, that means you benefit from two massive databases of known scam callers. You’ll also love T-Mobile’s anti-robocall campaign called Scam Shield, which helps all T-Mobile and Sprint subscribers. This offers the following benefits:

  • All incoming calls are now automatically filtered on the network level to make sure they’re real.
  • Enhanced Caller ID will display a “Scam Likely” label on phone calls that happen to make it through the filter.
  • A “proxy phone number” will be given to subscribers for use in place of their own for online sign-ups and subscriptions.
  • Be ID Aware, which notifies you when your private information is compromised and shows up for sale on the Dark Web.

Want to activate these features? T-Mobile customers can dial #662# on their smartphones and press the call button. You’ll need to download the Scam Shield app from the iOS App Store or Google Play for the proxy number.

2. Join the National Do Not Call Registry list

Of course, even if you activate the features above, you may still struggle with robocalls. Scammers often slip through the tracks to steal your money. According to data from market research firm Hiya, the average person who falls for a scam loses $182.

Some unfortunate souls lose as much as $500, though. Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry to make sure you don’t lose a dime. Putting your name on this list makes it illegal for telemarketers to call you.