Changing Cell Phone Number, Stalker Edition
August 2, 2017 2:44 PM   Subscribe

An ex has become a stalker. It is serious enough that in addition to other things I am doing (police, restraining order), I need to change my cell phone number, which I've had for a million years, and which is also my work phone number. Is there any easy way to do this?

Call forwarding once its done, if that is even possible, would be tricky because then the stalker will still be able to reach me. (This person calls from different numbers so blocking does not stop it.) Do I send out a mass email, change my work signature, and hope for the best? Any tips or suggestions appreciated.
posted by kmr to Technology (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would do mass email + update work signature and other work-related places that list your number. I would also see if it is possible to keep the old phone number for a few months and check the voicemail every few days. If someone has fallen through the phone number-update cracks, you can then realize this and call them back, and you will also have documentation of any voicemails left by your stalker (potentially useful evidence to give to the police). And finally, being able to leave a voicemail may make your stalker believe that the number is still being actively used, and thus not seek out other methods of contacting you (like hunting down your new phone number), while if he gets a "number disconnected" message, he could escalate to other methods of contact.

The only other thing I would say is to only give this new number out to friends that you 100% trust, and be VERY clear with them that they should not share it with ANYONE. If someone is looking for your number, they should ask you first before giving it out. You don't want to go through all this trouble and then end up with your stalker getting the new number anyway. Similarly, I would see if your work is willing to leave the phone number off of any public websites and anything else publicly accessible. For example, if someone calls your company asking for your number, will they automatically give it out, or will they ask for the person's contact information so you can call them back? It seems very possible your stalker would call your company if they can't find any other way to reach you, so you want to lock that down as much as possible too.
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:58 PM on August 2, 2017 [7 favorites]

If you are worried about changing numbers and missing out on calls or texts, you could port your current number to a Google Voice number, that way the stalker cannot actually reach your phone. He would be able to leave messages at the Google Voice number, but they wouldn't be clogging up your phone that you use on a daily basis. With the Google Voice number, you can periodically check in case you miss any calls from people you know. I have a Google Voice number attached to a back-up Gmail account -- it will send me text messages as emails and voicemails as email audio attachments (though I bet you can change that in the settings and only use the Google Voice page). So I would create a throwaway Google account to do this -- don't use your normal one, because then you will just be shifting his harassment from your phone to your inbox.

I have no experience with this, but I would tell friends/family explicitly to please not give the number out to anyone because you are dealing with a stalking situation. It's up to you how much you feel comfortable sharing, but I think you should be clear about this so you don't end up with the same problem all over again. With your co-workers, this might be trickier...

Can you use a separate phone number for work? If the stalker calls your office and says he needs the phone number to reach kmr, will he be able to get it? Maybe your office would cover a cell phone for you? My offices usually did, but I had to ask. I think there would be other benefits to keeping your personal cell phone separate from your work phone, that it might be worth looking into.
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:06 PM on August 2, 2017 [11 favorites]

Meant to add -- if it's really upsetting to check the voicemail and hear messages from your stalker, perhaps you have a trusted friend who would be willing to do this for you? I know I would do it for a friend in that situation!
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:06 PM on August 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

AppleTurnover: "He would be able to leave messages at the Google Voice number, but they wouldn't be clogging up your phone that you use on a daily basis."

Using that solution, you can also selectively block his numbers.
posted by WCityMike at 3:36 PM on August 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have an internet/email stalker, but he has only once called my phone (office) but I think the advice I have gotten from police, therapists and lawyers is relevant. I would do as AppleTurnover suggested, port the number to a Google Voice account. I would do this because while you do not want to speak to the person, you want the person to THINK they are still reaching you at the best possible number. This will delay or maybe even prevent them from seeking your new number. You set the GV number on Do Not Disturb and you can as AT said, get emails or texts alerting you to both missed calls and voicemails. Texts can be fowarded too.

I would get ANOTHER Google Voice number and use that for work. Just give that out to all your work contacts. That can be a front for your actual cell number. When/if you get a new actual cell number, do not give it out to anyone but family and close trusted friends. Explain to them the situation and to not give it out.

I would get a third Google Voice number to give out to not so close friends and acquaintances or folks you just met. This can be set to DND and you can get back to anyone within seconds of them calling or texting you.

I would only block his numbers to your actual phone. I am 50-50 on whether to block them to your GV numbers. On the one hand, you want to be able to document the extent of the harassment and the frequency of it, and on the other hand, you do not want to hear from the ex. It is a tough decision to make.

When forwarding your GV number, the one to not so close friends, there are two settings in GV regarding how the numbers will show in your cell caller ID. Either your GV number will show or GV can pass the actual caller ID onto your phone. I would suggest that you set it to the GV number so you can easily differentiate between your family/friends and the ones using the GV number. Also, to the extent possible, only ever answer numbers in your contact list. Just add everyone but your ex to your contact or whitelist. Any new numbers, do not answer.

If you use a GV # for work and another for casual acquaintances, the hardship of changing your actual cell number is reduced by a material magnitude if you only have to tell family and close friends. Keep the list of close friends to actually really close friends. If the stalker gets your direct dial cell, you can also maybe educate your leaker about not doing it.
posted by AugustWest at 3:48 PM on August 2, 2017 [13 favorites]

I'm not sure changing your number will help, if it is your work number I assume that your stalker will be able to find it almost right away. Maybe send all non-whitelisted numbers to voicemail, then you can decide if an unknown number should be whitelisted.
posted by 445supermag at 4:29 PM on August 2, 2017

Google Voice allows you to respond to differently to different incoming numbers so you can automatically forward numbers in your address book (known parties) to your new phone and allow everything else to go to voice mail.
posted by metahawk at 4:37 PM on August 2, 2017

You didn't say if you have an iPhone, Android phone, or something else.

If you're on iPhone, you can "whitelist" numbers, meaning you will only get calls from an approved list of incoming numbers. Everyone else goes to voicemail.

You do this by turning on Do Not Disturb, then setting it up to only allow incoming calls from your contacts (or a selected group within that).
posted by JoeZydeco at 4:58 PM on August 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

You may consider calling The Stalking Resource Center. They can hopefully help with the tech piece as I know they train on it. They have a line for referrals.
posted by anya32 at 8:12 PM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Every experience of stalking is different and I'm sharing this only in case it's valuable – please disregard if it's not. (And especially disregard if your stalker has any tendency of escalating into physical violence, unlike mine, and your goal is actually not being findable as opposed to not being harassed – I couldn't be sure from your question.)

I went through a period where my stalker ex was calling my phone more than a hundred times a day (as well as contacting my friends and family), so I seriously considered changing the phone number I'd had for a decade and given to countless professional colleagues. I didn't, and in the end I was glad I hadn't uprooted my own life because of him. This level of obsession is very unlikely to be sustainable. During that time it felt like it would NEVER end, but now it's been several years since I've heard anything from him.
posted by kalapierson at 8:52 PM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Can confirm letting this person think they still have direct access to you when they really don't is a great solution.
posted by jbenben at 10:26 PM on August 2, 2017

Turn the existing number into a Google Voice number, so you won't lose any critical contacts, but it's much easier to weed out the stalker, and get yourself a new *real* number that you are VERY careful about giving out.
posted by stormyteal at 12:15 AM on August 3, 2017

I get a lot of spam calls from random and unknown numbers. I use an app called Hiya, which sends then straight to voicemail (GV for me). Maybe some tool like that will be helpful.
posted by Dashy at 3:51 AM on August 4, 2017

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