Think of it as a PO Box for your phone...
December 31, 2010 9:35 AM   Subscribe

PrivacyFilter -- Please help me find a way to keep my personal phone number hidden from prying eyes.

I'm looking for the best way to give a phone number to people, without it being my personal mobile phone number. The only phone line that I have is the mobile, and I don't necessarily want to give that number out to just anyone. Having that buffer would make sense, whether it be for giving my number to strangers or for business contacts that I don't want to be able to reach me that way. I'm willing to pay for the ability to do this, but I'd like to keep cost to a minimum.

I had a couple of ideas on ways to accomplish this:

*Google Voice: From what I understand, Google Voice sets up a new "Google" number that rings all of your phones. Most people allow it to take over all of their lines, and use one number to ring all of their phones. Does it make sense to do the opposite: only give the GV number to strangers, and continue to regularly use your original number for other tasks?
Downside -- Is there a downside to that?

*Skype: Purchase a Skype number (
Downside -- no Skype app for my smartphone, so I would need to leave my PC running.

*Prepaid phone: just have a cheap, pay as you go phone that I buy a card and load minutes on as needed.
Downside -- I'm on a CDMA network, so no prepaid SIMs for me. I would need to get a cheap phone.

I saw another thread that asked a similar question, but it mostly suggested GrandCentral (now part of Google Voice).

posted by kensch to Technology (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I use Google Voice, and I use it exactly the way you describe. I give my GV number to people I don't know - whether that's for job searches, as a contact number for my credit cards/bills, online ordering, or whatever. That way the only people that have my "real" number are my friends and family, and it's easy for me to tell who's who.
posted by pdb at 9:44 AM on December 31, 2010

Get a pay-as-you-go account at and set up a call forwarding setup that meets your needs.

Have a look around at their service - lots of options in there that could be used to hide your real cellular number.
posted by TravellingDen at 9:44 AM on December 31, 2010

Use Google Voice.

Give the GV number out to people. They call, it rings your regular phone.

If you want to hide your own caller id when making outbound calls you can do this via GV (just call your own number, then "2", then dial the number), or use one of the app interfaces (e.g. android phones can call natively from your GV number, or on the google web page you can initiate a call).

If you want to use Skype, you can buy a plan whereby someone rings your skype-in number, and it redirects to another phone number if you're not online. Also workable, but will be a few bucks more expensive.
posted by devbrain at 9:47 AM on December 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you end up using Google Voice, be sure to activate Google Voicemail on your cell phone. Otherwise, the call will go directly from GV to your regular cell number and, if you miss the call, to your cell phone's voicemail. This could present many problems, as your regular cell phone number could be revealed to the caller (e.g. through your personal greeting).

Calls directed toward your regular number will also be intercepted by GVmail, so your cell phone provider's voicemail will become useless. Essentially, you will have one central voicemail box for both your regular and GV number.

Just make sure that your GVmail greeting does not mention anything like, "Hi, you've reached XXX-XXX-XXX." You don't want to confuse callers who called one or the other number.

Best of luck!
posted by camcol at 10:05 AM on December 31, 2010

Yes, Google Voice. They make it very easy to block unwanted calls. Google Voice also lets you set up voicemail for the phone that only people who called the Google number will hear, so you can have two different voicemail messages for the same phone (one for the normal cell number and one for the Google number).
posted by Lobster Garden at 10:09 AM on December 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Very cool. Thanks for the feedback. Where have you been all my life, Google?
posted by kensch at 10:19 AM on December 31, 2010

Another nifty feature of GV is call screening. First-time callers are asked for their name, which is then played for you when you receive the call. At that point you can choose to answer the call or send the caller to voicemail (and optionally listen in as they leave a message).

You can whitelist friends/family/etc so they do not have to record their names and you automatically answer the call when you pick up.
posted by Fin Azvandi at 4:34 PM on December 31, 2010

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