Use a Google Voice phone number to keep your personal number private

Google's free service might just be the ultimate 'disposable' phone number for online activities.

Last year I shared three things you should know about Google Voice--basically a rundown of three cool ways to use the service.

Here's a fourth: Use it as a disposable phone number.

See, when you sign up for Google Voice, which you can do for any new or existing Google/Gmail account, you get the option of choosing a new phone number. (You can also port an existing number, but that's not part of the discussion today.)

One of the neat things about Google Voice is that you can route calls to that number to any/all of your existing numbers (home, office, cell phone, etc.).

However, I don't use mine that way. Instead, I use my Google Voice number for those times when I'm signing up for a free trial, or registering for a service, or anything else that requires a phone number--but I don't want to use my home or mobile number.

Like most folks, I'm concerned about my privacy. I don't want telemarketers contacting me, and I don't want any extra personal info exposed if some hacker breaks into a site where I've registered.

The beauty of Google Voice is that if I ever do get a call on that number, the only intrusion will be an email notification. Then I can hop online to check any voicemails.

The one exception might be if you're buying something online. If your phone number doesn't match the one that's attached to your credit card, the order might not go through. That said, I've rarely run into a problem on this front--it's simply something to be aware of.

If you've found another good use for Google Voice, by all means share it in the comments. In the meantime, why not grab yourself a disposable email address, too?

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PCWorld Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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