This freebie from Google stops annoying robocalls and gives you a second phone number

This freebie from Google stops annoying robocalls and gives you a second phone number

Fun fact: Two of the most popular tips on my website over the years are all about blocking your number and revealing the identity of blocked or strange numbers calling you.

I get the curiosity. It’s not always a robocaller ringing you from a number you don’t recognize. Tap or click here for four ways to find anyone’s cellphone number online.

If you want to block your own number (and you should!), tap or click here for all the temporary and permanent steps to get the job done. This is a little-known scam call deterrent.

The more widespread your number is, the more vulnerable you are to hackers and other bad actors. A secondary phone number protects your primary one, but it can do a lot more, too.

First, get your free new number

When you get a new phone number, your old one does not just disappear into the ether. That’s scary if you think about anything connected to your number. Tap or click to see how someone else getting their hands on it can seriously compromise your privacy.

Google Voice is a free service that gives you a phone number to use however you like for domestic and international phone calls, texts, and voicemails. Google Voice is available for iOS, Android, and your computer. All you need is a Google account to get started.

• Download the app for iOS or Android or go to voice.google.com/u/0/signup to get it for your computer.

• Next, sign in to your Google account.

• Review the terms and proceed to the next step.

• Choose a phone number from the list. You can search by city or area code.

• Verify the number and enter a phone number to link to your Voice account.

• You’ll get a six-digit code to enter for the next step. Done!

Now, time to dive into how you can use that number.

1. Keep your old number if you’re switching

Let’s say you have to switch providers because you’re moving to a new state or country. Perhaps you found a better deal elsewhere. You probably want to keep your old phone number, right? The good news is you can likely port it to Google Voice for a $20 fee.

Not every provider or phone number is eligible, but you can give it a try. You’ll need your account number and PIN, so have your billing account information handy.

• Open Google Voice and click the hamburger menu icon. Go to Legacy Google Voice, then click the Settings gear icon to go to Settings.

• Select the Phones tab, then Change/Port next to your phone number.

• Select I want to use my mobile number and follow the onscreen instructions to set it up and pay.

Stalkers and creeps can do a lot of damage with your number. Tap or click for steps to take if someone is harassing you online.

2. Send certain calls straight to voicemail

You need to talk to a particular person, but you don’t want them to have your real number. When you don’t want to block someone outright, you can send them to voicemail.

You can do the same for all incoming calls with Google Voice. This is smart when you use that second number as a burner you really don’t intend to take calls on. Here’s how to do it on your computer:

• Open Google Voice and click the Settings gear icon.

• Click Calls.

• Turn off your devices under Incoming calls.

• Turn off your linked numbers under Call forwarding.

Here’s how to send calls to voicemail through your phone.

• Open the Voice app and tap the hamburger menu icon, then Settings.

• Tap Devices and numbers.

• Tap the Remove X icon, then Remove next to your devices and linked numbers.

Sometimes Do Not Disturb is the answer. Tap or click for steps to set it up on your iPhone or Android.

3. A safer way to give your contact info to strangers

When asked for your phone number by a new social or business acquaintance, you give it. Perhaps it’s on your business card. The same happens when you sign up for a new account or want to sell something online.

Just one bad actor can get a hold of your number and make your life miserable. Spam and robocalls can come through phone calls or texts. A hacker can use your phone number to get into one of your accounts and access your information. A burner phone number minimizes your risk.

This step is simple. Instead of giving out your real number, pass along your Google Voice number.

4. Try it for your business or side hustle

There are lots of ways to make money online. Have some old gadgets lying around? Tap or click here for tips on selling your tech.

Whether it’s a side hustle or a full-on business you’re trying to start, you need a phone number. The problem is that you’ll never know who’s going to call. Beyond legitimate clientele, you’ll get strange people asking strange questions.

BRING IN BANK: 20 ways to make money online anyone can do

5. Record calls (as long as it’s legal)

Google Voice lets you record conversations, too. It’s easier than scribbling notes when you need a record of a call. Be sure to check your local laws before recording any conversation. In some states, you need to get the consent of everyone involved before hitting record.

How to record a Google Voice call on your computer:

• Go to voice.google.com and click the Settings gear icon.

• Click Calls.

• Turn on Incoming call options.

• During a call, tap 4 to start recording. All participants in the call will be notified that the recording has begun.

• Tap 4 again to stop recording. All participants will be notified.

Here’s how to set up recording on your phone:

• Open the Voice app and tap the hamburger menu icon, then tap Settings.

• Turn on Incoming call options under Calls.

• Tap 4 to start recording during a call. All participants in the call will be notified that the recording has begun.

• Tap 4 again to stop recording. All participants will be notified.

Bonus Tip: A woman was being harassed and stalked. How we found the guy.

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Explains” on Apple, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player.

One woman called my national radio show for help with a malicious stranger who stalked her daughter’s every move. Over time, the abuse escalated; the creep targeted her whole family, even posting the mom’s photos on risqué dating sites. Listen and learn how we unmasked the stalker!

Tap or click here to listen to how a stalker took over her life and steps to find out who he was.

Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

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