Disposable Phone Numbers

For years I offered my fax number when asked to give a phone number to a credit card company, bank, merchant, politician, or other organization that I knew was going to turn around and sell it telemarketers. After I disconnected my fax line a couple of years ago, I switched my standard fake to my office number since it has no answering machine and I’m only there about one hour a week. (If I actually want to talk to someone, I’ll give them my home number.)

However, now NetZero has launched Private Phone which provides an unlimited supply of disposable phone numbers for free. This is like Mailinator for phones (though unlike Mailinator you do have to sign up before using a number, and you’ll have to clear your cookies if you want to change numbers).

I have no idea how NetZero plans to make money on this–they do seem to put some advertising on their web site–but this service is really cool. For instance, it would be very helpful to be able to give Staples a phone number their delivery people can use to call and confirm I’ll be home without having to listen to all the telemarketing that inevitably follows a Staples order. It’s actually only voice mail, but that’s good enough for most uses.

One downside: like many sites PrivatePhone doesn’t work with cookies. Not very good for a site that puts “Private” in its domain name.

I do wonder what the overall privacy policy for the entire site is? As usual they try to deliberately hide it behind obfuscating JavaScript to make sure no one actually reads it. A quick skim of the agreement doesn’t appear to address the Private Phone service at all. It appears to be simply the agreement for their regular VOIP service.

I wouldn’t be too surprised if they store all voice mails indefinitely. That could be a problem, and might mean it isn’t as good as encrypted Skype for avoiding subpoenas or other unwanted government attention. However it should be plenty enough to keep the telemarketers off your back.

3 Responses to “Disposable Phone Numbers”

  1. J Donald Says:

    Telemarketers and phone-phishers will love this!

  2. Wes Felter Says:

    Several other VoIP companies offer “virtual numbers” that can go to voicemail, an IP phone/ATA, or redirect to another number. Eventually I suspect competition will drive the price of this service very low.

  3. Elliotte Rusty Harold Says:

    Since it’s only incoming, not outgoing, and since it’s only a mailbox, no live chat, I can’t see that this is of much use to telemarketers.

Leave a Reply