Don’t buy a separate phone if you don’t want to share people your phone number. Burner programs allow you to generate temporary phone numbers that you may reuse.

People used to change their phone numbers all the time—you didn’t get to keep your number if you had to move to a different place. You can now maintain your original cell phone number for the rest of your life, even if you’re ready to pay to keep the area code on a different continent. There are drawbacks to this. Having another number linked to you for the rest of your life, similar to your social security number or driver’s license number, means it’s another obvious target for bad actors. Especially when your cell phone number is very certainly linked to all of your online accounts.

Best Approach

The best approach to avoid this is to only give your personal phone number to friends and family. There are numerous compelling reasons for this. Perhaps you use Facebook Marketplace to purchase and sell products, manage an Airbnb listing, are looking for work, have a job that needs a lot of phone calls, or are online dating. Assign a burner number to each of them.

A burner is a no-contract, prepaid mobile phone that you buy in a store (with cash, for privacy), activate over the phone or online, use for a short time, and then trash. Throwing it away is the “burning” aspect; however, the owner can “top off” the minutes on a prepaid phone and continue to use it. You don’t have to block someone (or a stalker, dodgy marketer, or robo-caller) from your permanent phone with a burner. You also don’t need to get a new phone number.

If you need a second phone number, you may always acquire a prepaid SIM card from a low-cost carrier. It might even come in helpful if you have a spare phone. Furthermore, some modern unlocked phones enable eSIM standards, which require the SIM card that identifies you with the carrier to be fully integrated and only be changed via remote software.

However, eSIM isn’t a viable solution for a burner phone number. Changing phone numbers via replacing physical SIM cards is inconvenient at best. Worse, dual-SIM phones are difficult to find (the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE and the quasi-smartphone Nokia 6300 4G being recent exceptions).

You already own a wonderful, roomy iPhone or Android smartphone that can’t hold two digits, but you don’t want to buy another one. Fortunately, there are still a variety of options for obtaining an additional (perhaps temporary) phone number that works with your smartphone (or even on your tablet, since most use some kind of Voice-over-IP system). The phone numbers can also be used to send and receive text messages that include photographs.

This isn’t the same as dialing *67 or #31# before a call and being marked as Blocked or Unknown. When you phone the services listed below, they will show a temporary number so that you can receive calls until you tell them to cease. All of the burner services include voicemail and call forwarding if you only want the numbers to take calls.

These burner apps and services have several disadvantages. The most significant disadvantage is that you can’t usually use them to dial 911 for assistance. Some companies include that limit in their terms of service to avoid being sued. Second, some of these systems’ developers have a finite quantity of phone numbers to work with. According to a 2014 study, certain businesses recycle phone numbers quickly, which means you can get unwanted calls from people trying to reach someone who previously had your number.

If you’re willing to overlook all of that and still require a secondary phone number, prepare to use some apps and services that will protect your privacy by serving as the number you give out when you’re not sure who to trust.

1. Burner

The optimum name for this type of product is Burner. The service is only available in the United States and Canada, and it only gives you access to certain digits for a limited period. If your free trial or account expires without an upgrade, the number will also expire. Up to three permanent phone lines with unlimited minutes and messages are available with a premium subscription. (It’s better to register a Burner membership through the web rather than using the mobile apps, so Apple or Google aren’t involved.) If you don’t want to pay the Apple Tax, don’t.)

2. Hushed

Hushed (iOS and Android) is similar to Burner, but it’s available in over 40 countries and has a level of simplicity that makes it worthwhile to investigate. Hushed uses VoIP, which means calls are made over Wi-Fi rather than your cellular data network, if you’re concerned about the minutes left on your actual mobile phone plan. Your phone plan’s minutes aren’t utilised (unless you set up something like Call Forwarding or Call Routing). Subscribers can bundle up to three lines. Hushed users’ text messages are all free and auto-delete after they’ve been read.

3. CoverMe

CoverMe is best known as an app (for Android; the iOS version has vanished as of February 2022) that allows users to communicate securely and privately using VoIP, both voice and text. It also provides users in the United States and Canada with additional phone numbers that may be used to make and receive encrypted voice conversations. It won’t use up your phone data plan if you have access to Wi-Fi, but it also works through cellular data connections.

4. Flyp

Do you need multiple phone numbers with different area codes? Flyp for iOS and Android allows you to have up to five separate “locations.” Calling, texting, picture messaging, and voicemail are all limitless on each number. It’s pricey, but straightforward. One of the most intriguing features is the option to set a whitelist of people who are allowed to call each phone number.

5. Google Voice

Google Voice’s main goal is to provide call routing utilizing a single free phone number that rings on all of your lines. If an urgent call comes in, it will ring your mobile phone, your home phone, your business phone, and others at the same time, allowing you to pick up the one you desire. (In the one-phone-per-person mobile era, this is becoming less of an issue, but hey, at least you have a permanent second number that costs nothing.)

6. Line2

Line2 is a phone second line that focuses on becoming a full-featured, cloud-based business phone service for small teams, according to the company (which is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag’s parent company). Each Line2 account comes with unlimited SMS, MMS, and virtual calling. With each phone number, you can receive up to 99 extensions by upgrading. You can use Line2 on your desktop with a web-based software, or you can use the apps for iOS or Android.

7. TextNow

TextNow allows you to receive a second phone number in your area code (or another) for free, as well as free calling and messaging via the iOS and Android apps as long as your device is connected to the internet (it also works on the desktop for Windows and macOS).

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