A friend of mine, Sam, recently listed his Nokia Lumia phone for sale online. After making arrangements to meet a buyer, he went to the AT&T store to have them wipe his phone of personal data. Unfortunately, the process killed his phone. He let the buyer know, who then, apparently angered by the cancelled deal, began sending weird texts to Sam's new iPhone.
How could Sam have avoided the hassle? He could have used Burner, an app that lets people create disposable numbers that they can give out in place of their real number. Burner today (April 10) released an app for Android phones and a major update for iPhone.
The software takes the place of burner phones, cheap mobiles that can be picked up at a local convenience store with no identifying account information associated with them. Burner offers similar anonymity without the need for another phone. Instead of tossing the phone, you delete the phone number the app generated.
Disposable numbers aren't only for drug dealers — just ask Sam. In fact, anonymous numbers come in handy for a variety of activities, such as getting quotes on a service when you don't want follow-up calls, first dates when you're really not sure if there will be a second one and, as in Sam's case, whenever you sell something online.
Burner numbers aren't free, but they're flexible. For instance, $1.99 will buy a Mini Burner, a number that will last for seven days, 20 talk minutes or 60 texts, whichever comes first. A burner can be extended by buying additional in-app credits before it expires. Those who need a number that lasts longer and handles more traffic, can spend $4.99 for a 60-day number (75 minutes or 225 texts) or a 30-day number that can be used for 90 minutes or 270 texts. You can "burn" a number at any time, which will delete it immediately and take it out of service.
The Burner app includes voicemail and an inbox that work a lot like those in your regular service. You'll see a list of recent calls and a list of all calls. You can favorite calls by tapping a star icon, and you can record a voicemail messages that callers hear when they dial your Burner numbers.
Download the free app and start by typing in your mobile phone number, which Burner uses for forwarding your future disposable numbers. Burner will text you a verification code.
Name your burner number, such as "KSL phone sale," and choose your area code. Burner will generate a disposable number that can be used immediately to place a call, text a number or share with others, including on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (see below) and email.
Once you burn a number, you cannot recover it. While Burner supports SMS text messaging, you can't use MMS messaging, meaning no photos or video. You cannot use a burner number to make emergency 911 calls.
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