How to Make Your Phone Number Unsearchable
There are many good reasons you might want to hide your phone number. From being targeted by a stalker all the way down to simply being fed up with telemarketers and robocalls interrupting dinner.
Having your phone number easily searchable online puts you at greater risk of experiencing phishing attempts, being contacted by scammers, and even having your identity stolen. But there’s a lot you can do to help keep your phone number private.
You’ll find a step-by-step guide on how to make your phone number unsearchable below. You can also skip over the two most tedious and work-intensive steps with a subscription to Incogni. Incogni makes tracking down and removing from circulation personal information like your phone number easy.
1) Type your name and phone number into a search engine or two
Start where someone trying to search your number would probably start: with a Google search. Search for your name, your phone number, and both together. Google search results are heavily filtered, so try the same three searches on something like DuckDuckGo as well.
These searches will give you a good idea of how searchable your number is right now. Following the steps below will have your personal information fading from the search results. But keep in mind that this can take months. The next step, at least, will take effect immediately.
2) Stop actively putting your phone number out there
Your phone number is probably all over the web, even if it’s an unlisted number, but you might be putting it out there yourself without even realizing it. Check your social media profiles and settings and pay attention to which chat apps broadcast your mobile number.
Most social media platforms have menu options and additional settings to keep your number private. Some chat apps also offer settings like this. Both Facebook and Telegram offer what are essentially “hide number” settings, with Telegram offering public usernames to allow users to interact with strangers without sharing their phone numbers.
The safest apps and services are those that never ask for your number in the first place. Chat protocols like Matrix and apps like Threema don’t require a phone number to set up an account. An authenticator app like Aegis can sometimes be used in place of providing a phone number for two-factor authentication (2FA).
3) Get your phone number off people search sites
A lot of the hits you got in your searches in step one were probably from people search sites. These are data brokers that specialize in scraping and crawling the web for personal information and giving or selling access to that information.
Thanks in large part to state laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), all people search sites must offer an opt-out procedure for people who want their data removed from these sites’ search results.
So click on every people search site that popped up in your search results and look for a link like “opt out,” “remove my info,” or “do not sell my information.” Follow the instructions you find there. For those sites that don’t appear to have an opt-out procedure, contact the site owner directly.
You should never have to pay any fees or set up an account to have your information removed from these sites. Consider lodging a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) if a company refuses to remove your information without payment.
Incogni has detailed opt-out guides for all the major people search sites you’re likely to come across. These guides will walk you through the process of having your personal information removed as quickly as possible while helping you to avoid the pitfalls.
Online phone books fall into the people search site category. Our guides cover both the WhitePages and WhitePages Premium sites, for example. If your number appears in a local phone book, contact the publisher to have it removed from the next edition.
Skip all the hassle by subscribing to Incogni’s automated personal information removal service. Incogni tracks down people search sites that might be sharing your data and sends out wave after wave of opt-out requests on your behalf. More than that, it deals with the data brokers you can’t see.
4) Stop other data brokers from passing your phone number around
People search sites are just one kind of data broker. Most have no interest in making their records—your information—searchable by random people online. Instead, they prefer to share and sell access to their databases from behind the scenes. The solution is as simple as it is labor-intensive.
These other data brokers still have to make opt-out procedures available to people who want to keep their information private. You don’t need to know if a company has your data to submit a data removal request. So you can just send opt-out requests out blind, right? Yes, and no.
With hundreds of data brokers known to operate in the US alone, there are a couple of problems with the spam approach. First, you have to find all the data brokers that might have your personal information. You can do some research to find out which are most active in your geographical area or industry.
Second, each data broker has a different opt-out procedure than the last, and some of them take a lot of time and effort to complete. So once you have your hard-won list of data brokers, you might want to see if you can cross some more off the list. Incogni’s researchers estimate that it’d take 304 hours to complete one round of opt-out requests.
This is where an automated personal information removal service like Incogni really comes into its own. Incogni does all the tracking and triage for you. It also sends out dozens of requests at a time, keeps track of and handles data brokers’ responses, and restarts the whole process a few times a year to keep your data from reappearing.
5) What else you can do to keep your phone number private
Working to make your number unsearchable and keeping your number private are two different things. The following won’t directly contribute to making your number unsearchable, but they’re good practices in and of themselves, and might be just what you need.
Think twice before you call or text
Don’t use your phone number to enter sweepstakes and don’t use it to text or call into competitions or services, especially those that involve premium numbers. Your number is likely to be added to various marketing lists, leading to your being bombarded with spam and scams.
Don’t share your phone number when buying or selling online
There’s almost always at least one alternative available right there on the platform on which you’re buying or selling. Whether an in-app or on-site chat function or good, old-fashioned (masked) email, you have options to keep your phone number private. All it takes is one phone call and your number’s out there.
Block caller ID on your phone
Of course, you could block the caller ID on your phone to stop whoever you’re calling from seeing your number. You could even have your phone display someone else’s caller ID, although you should verify the legality of this in your area.
On an Android phone, open the Google Voice app, tap on “menu,” and then on “settings.” Under “calls”, turn “anonymous caller ID” on. On an Apple iPhone, go to “settings,” “phone,” “show my caller ID” and turn the option off. Your phone number will still be displayed during FaceTime calls, though.
If you’re a Verizon customer, you might find that the above methods don’t work or aren’t accessible from your phone settings. You can still make your phone number private by logging into your Verizon account and turning on “caller ID blocking” there.
To block caller ID on a call-by-call basis, simply dial “*67” before the number you want to call. Make a test call to a trusted friend or relative first to make sure this method really does keep your phone number private.
Add your number to the Do Not Call Registry
Adding your number(s) (landline or mobile) to the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry won’t make it less searchable, but it will cut down on the number of telemarketing calls you receive. Registration is free and you should see telemarketing phone calls drop to zero within a month.
Have your phone number removed from Google search results
You’d think this would be the go-to method for hiding your phone number from searches. There are two reasons why it’s not. Google’s search engine is just one among many, even if you could get your number off of Google’s search results, it’d still be up on all those other search engines.
Secondly, Google (or Alphabet Inc.) isn’t in the business of excluding search results for just any reason. Unless you can prove malicious intent and/or imminent danger, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get Google to make your number unsearchable. Contacting site owners individually is the better option here.
We have a detailed guide on removing personal information from Google search—it might make sense to try in your particular circumstances.
Revoke app permissions or delete unsafe apps
Any app that requests access to your phone number could be leaking or intentionally sharing your number with any number of bad actors. Free games and other unpaid apps are particularly likely to raid your phone for personal information to steal.
Check out our research article to get a better idea of the dangers involved and what you can do to avoid or reduce them.
Keep an eye on data breaches that might involve your phone number
A data breach can certainly leave your personal data exposed, and phone numbers are often among the leaked details. Keep track of which of your accounts have been breached by visiting the “have I been pwned?” website. Enter your email address or addresses and phone numbers one by one to see which have had associated accounts compromised.
⚠️ Stop unwanted emails and texts
Cybercriminals need your data (phone number or email) to run their scams. Incogni works tirelessly in the background to get your personal information off the market and away from these criminals.
Don’t let scammers buy your data so easily. The first 100 blog readers to use STOP-SPAM-MARCH23 get an additional 10% discount.
Whatever you end up deciding, remain vigilant and be mindful about what personal information you share online.
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- Stop Dynata Calls
- Venmo Scams
Is it possible to make your phone number completely unsearchable?
Ultimately, it’s not possible to make your number completely unsearchable. You could get very close to a completely private number, but only at the expense of usability. You could, for example, get a new number or burner phone and do everything possible to keep that number private.
The thing is, the more you use your phone, the more your number will leak out there, potentially ending up in the hands of bad actors. The better approach is to be aware of the dangers, to keep on top of data brokers, and not to give your number to companies like Facebook/Meta.