How to keep your personal phone number private

Email accounts, social media, online stores and other businesses want your telephone number. It’s a security measure that allows them to send you warnings of potentially unauthorized use of your account and a way to reset your password when you forget what it is. It also gives these companies the ability to send you ads via your phone and sell your contact information to others.

Companies aren’t in the benevolent business of offering free services. It isn’t possible to pay for electricity, water, rent, employees or server upgrades without revenue, and offering free services comes with a price. Businesses need income to pay for expenses, and that resource has to come from someone. While a portion of that income might be generated from ad sales or encouraging users to pay for access to special features and services, a portion of the total income might also be generated from the data users enter into the system.

When an individual signs up for access to a free website, free phone application, or other free services, the information the user provides to that company is likely going to be used for marketing purposes or sold to other organizations that crave such information. Your data is a commodity, and it’s traded more frequently than many stocks on Wall Street. While all data on an individual is valuable, a person’s mobile phone number is particularly valuable because it allows marketers to reach a person anytime, anywhere.

Though many sites require a phone number for access, and verification information from a text sent to it when setting up an account, it isn’t necessary to provide the telephone number to a personal phone to do it. All one has to do to set up such accounts is to provide the telephone number to a prepaid phone.

Prepaid phones are similar to prepaid credit cards. They can be purchased with cash, used anonymously, and discarded when the need for them no longer exists. When signing up for services from a company that you suspect may try to sell your telephone information to others or use it for marketing purposes, provide the prepaid cell number. A prepaid phone is also valuable when entering contests, requesting more information about a product or service from a business, or when someone you don’t want to offend asks for your telephone number. The prepaid phone can also be a valuable tool in the event of an emergency and your personal phone network is down.

If you want to avoid unwanted calls and maintain the privacy of your personal telephone number, keep a prepaid phone handy and give out its telephone number when you’re unsure how that information will be used.