Skip to content
Cell phone

Guide

Stop Being Tracked By Your Phone Number

I have been talking with people about protecting personal privacy a lot lately especially when it comes to identifiable information.   One of the biggest exposures is a persons cell phone number.  People are tied to their cell phone numbers as much as their cell phone number are to them.  No one changes their personal phone numbers (or email for that matter) unless they absolutely have too.  It’s just too much effort and trouble to get your friends and other accounts all changed to the new number.  Who wants to do that right?

We need to start treating our phone numbers as information we need to protect.

Unfortunately in today’s world having a cell phone is a necessity for everything to banking to ordering from Amazon to social/dating sites.  All those different sources of information all tied together by a single phone number.  What happens when there is a breach?  What happens if sites sell your data?  Try to think about how many times you have given your phone number out and what data it is tied to.  I have had my phone number since around 2002 and I can’t even remember how many times I used it when signing up for websites or services.

Experiment

The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate the risks of using your cell phone number when signing up for services, rewards programs and other services.

Google Search

Open google and search your phone number in quotes.
Example:
“555-123-4567”
“(555) 123-4567”
“5551234567”

Breach Search

Have I Been Pawned?:  https://haveibeenpwned.com/
DeHashed:  https://dehashed.com/
IntelligenceX:  https://intelx.io/

How I use my phone numbers

I use a combination of categories for my numbers.  

The low priority number is for anything that I would short term access to such as shopping rewards, sign ups that require text verification and rewards programs.  Basically anything that I don’t care about contact from and something I would use an alias name fore.   Unless I have a reason to cycle numbers immediately, I usually don’t pay attention to incoming voice calls or text messages from this number.  I never use my real name or any contact information that could be directly connected to myself.

The long term number is for services/people I may need to keep longer contact with but are not close friends or family.  Most of the time I set this burner to go straight to voicemail for voice calls and not to alert for text messages unless I am actively using it.  I manually check this when I get time or when needed.  The longer term is great for accounts you have a subscription to such as Netflix or my car dealership.  Basically anything that you may want to contact you and semi-trust but don’t necessarily need/want to give your phone number to.  The long term burner is just another layer to shield yourself.  I usually don’t keep my long term number for more than a year and transition what I deem important to the next long term number.

My Friends and Family number is for close friends and family that won’t or can’t use a more secure method for contact.  I usually use multiple phone numbers to different groups to prevent the exposure.   I have some friends and family that are more privacy focused than others and group them by that assessment (You know who you are).  I change these numbers as needed on my annual exposure search.  You never know if your contact information will be accessed by Google, Apple, Facebook or other application.

Banking and Government related phone number.   This is a phone number I guard and never give out unless required by law or legal reasons.  I consider this phone number a long term asset and will never provide it unless I determine there is no other choice.

My real cell phone number.  This is the phone number associated with my cell phone.  I never ever use this number for anything.  This is the number someone could track my location through cell phone or data usage, the goal is to have no information directly tied to myself.  To increase my privacy I always use a VPN, services and any payment associated with this number using an alias.

Services I Use

There are many services that offer VOIP o phone numbers that aren’t tied to cell phones or land lines.  If you find something that works for your use and privacy needs, then continue to use it.  The following options are what I have vetted and preferred to use.  I encourage everyone to do their own assessment of any service and their privacy practices before use.

BURNERhttps://www.burnerapp.com/

Cost:  $1.99 to $11.99 for individual on demand lines.  $4.99/month for 1 line subscription, $14.99 for 3 line subscription.

This is my main burner app for short term burners.   It allows me to have multiple lines and has options to pay for a temporary burner as needed and a subscription that lets me have 1-3 lines for a flat fee.  The app is extremely easy to use and you have complete control of each line.  Settings are specific for each line which include:  “Do Not Disturb”, Ring on/off, Notifications on/off, Voicemail greeting, and Inbound Caller ID.  It also has connections you can turn on such as Nomorobo and Ghostbot.

MySudo https://mysudo.com/

MySudo goes beyond just a private number offering other services, and that is a topic for another post.  For voice services, MySudo is my trusted and proven “go to”.  MySudo plan start at FREE to $14.95/month.  If nothing else use the free plan to start migrating services as Netflix or loyalty programs to start adding a layer of security to separate your identifiable information.

 

Summary

The purpose of using burners is to not provide accurate information when requested by businesses or services.  Using a phone number you can actively ignore unless needed and not tied to any identifiable information is the goal.  The dispersion misinformation and the ability to ignore incoming information is a valuable tool to ensuring your privacy.

I have said it before, I will say it again, I will continue to say it:

“Any time you give our ANY contact information it can be used to identify you.  Provide the lease amount of information or disinformation to achieve your goal.”