When you feel the vibration of your phone in your pocket and the familiar ringtone of someone calling, it never occurs to you that the number you see isn’t the actual number of a person. Why would you? Called ID is commonplace and many rely on its technology to give them to scoop on the phone number’s identity. It may not have occurred to you that one could fool called ID, right? Believe it or not, it’s possible to disguise your number or, as it’s referred to, “spoofing.”

Frankly, it’s easy to believe it exists. When you have apps that can control just about anything in your home–except getting rid of those pesky dishes–it should come as no surprise that someone found a way to cloak themselves in anonymity for the sake of a phone call. In fact, there’s several ways of doing it.

By its simplest definition, “call spoofing” is disguising a phone number as another phone number. That’s it. As for the application of it, those are entirely up to the person using doing the spoofing. And, believe it or not, there’s a number of reasons one could spoof their number without seeking to cause harm or play a prank. In fact, adults do it to call their kids on Christmas and disguise their voice in an attempt to play Santa.

What’s the Legalities?

Spoofing is what many would call a “grey area.” You see, the act of spoofing caller ID isn’t illegal in the United States, but that grey area turns black or white depending on your intentions.

Let’s say you want to prank a friend, make them believe their refrigerator is running way. That’s entirely harmless. Sure, it may not be funny to them that you pulled a prank on them and had them running around town for their refrigerator, but it’s completely legal. But let’s say you spoofed your number to be someone else’s, say, a significant other and managed to pull personal information from them. Well, that’s simply illegal. You crossed the line.

According to the Caller ID Act of 2009, it’s generally illegal in the United States if you intentions of fraud, causing harm, or obtain personal information of value, say, credit card information or social security number or even email account information. Now, that’s a grossly oversimplified version of the Caller ID Act of 2009, but if you want to read more, the FCC has an extensive page on the matter that you are welcome to give a read.

With that being said, let’s get you spoofing.

What Kind of Spoof Number Do You Want?

Imagine you’re signing up for, say, a newsletter. You really like the service they get and you want to make the leap of signing up with them; you want everything they post to make it to you as soon as possible and yes, you want the calls and text messages. But before you can finish the account creation, dread fills your mind as you realize they want your number. What do you do? Throw your device and light it on fire for the sake of a ritual to the phone gods? What if they never leave you alone? What if your number gets out there and you get spam callers? All legitimate reasons for wanting a spoof number.

Then you need to make a decision on what kind of spoof number you want. When you boil it down, you have three choices to choose from: a permanent number, a temporary number or through the use of an app. All are viable choices and work for different scenarios.

Here’s My Permanent Fake Not-Fake Number

Having a permanent fake number is, essentially, having a secondary number. By using this fake-not-fake permanent number, you can use it as a buffer of sorts, a number that can funnel unwanted numbers into or you could give the permanent fake number to someone you don’t immediately trust. After all, your number is a connection to you and you don’t want to trust just anyone with your real number. Of course, it is another number with all the functions that come with it. You’ll have to manage it like any other number.

But why bother with a fake permanent number? Well, for starters, the example above is a perfect reason. In other cases, you could use it as a shield. If your fake number gets leaked, who cares? It isn’t your real number. Give it to your co-workers. Give it to your dog. Give it to that ex of yours that won’t stop bothering you. And by the way, it’s usually cheaper than temporarily spoofing your number.

google voice

So, where could you find a number like that? Look no further than Google Voice. Yes, you read that right – use Google Voice. It’s the perfect tool and it’s free. Google Voice hands out web-based numbers that won’t bill you for its usage and you can use the number through a desktop client and through an app for both Android and iOS. It’s actually rather extensive on what it can do for you. Have a look-see.

First off, Google Voice assigns you a number right off the bat. Your assigned number isn’t entirely static either, in fact, you can customize it right down to the specific area code. The downside is, it’s only within the United States.

contact people with new number

With your new number, people can still call you at 3 in the morning, they can text stupid memes to your phone and yes, even voicemail. In other words, if works entirely like a standalone phone. And even better, the text messages, phone calls and voicemail will stick around, too. You can revisit any of that information from any version of Google Voice, whether it be through the app version of desktop version. And was it mentioned that it came with a price tag of ‘free’?

Use This Fake Number Wisely, You Only Have One

Take the concept of a burner phone–a phone that’s bought with the intention of using it once and then quickly tossed into the garbage–and, instead, make it a phone number or a “burner number.” And wouldn’t you know it, there’s a use for them.

Burner numbers are perfect for those one-time conversations. Let’s say you’re looking to make a personal call to a customer. It was something that you should handle personally because, let’s also say you’re the CEO of your business. Obviously, the CEO of a business shouldn’t be handing out their personal number to just anyone, especially a customer, someone who could call you non-stop. Bad idea, John or Jane Doe. But insert into the equation a disposable number, a burner number. After you’re done with the customer, you throw the number out and they’ll never be able to contact you.

It just so happens an app called Burner can do the job for you, and what a perfect name, too. Whenever you need a temporary number, you fire up Burner (no pun intended) and you create a burner number right there on the spot. You make a phone call or send the text, and it is a real number, and the person on the other end won’t see your information except the information you provided through the use of the app – your Burner info.

Burn it

There is one potentially downside to Burner: it can get rather expensive. Your best bet is to use Burner if you have the funds and are in constant need of a new number, whether for business or for the sake of security. You probably wouldn’t get much use out of Burner if you barely used it; try using Google Voice instead. But for those looking for a burner number every day, go for it as long as you have the means to afford it.

Burner is available for both Android and iOS.

Spoof Your Numbers with Spoofing Services

Using spoofing services are similar to a one-time use spoof number, but often come with a much heavier price tag. Reason being, many spoofing services go for realism in a way that their service provides background noise, like traffic or clubs, and even monthly subscription. Who needs a spoofing subscription? At any rate, you make the call like you normally would–after you’ve paid, of course–choose a number you want your spoof number to appear as, and a name, and there you have it – a spoof number.

However, while there does exist some reputable spoofing services, it might be best to avoid them. Just a simple Google search will hand out search results that are sketchy at best. But if any can claim some semblance of truth, it’s SpoofCard. They’ve been around for quite a number of years, even being among the oldest spoofing providers.

SpoofCard takes its service very seriously, even providing some great features that can come in handy for serious situations and, admittedly, some great pranking opportunities. For example, SpoofCard can artificially disguise your voice. Who wouldn’t want to prank their mom or dad? Or maybe you want to sound like you’re in traffic, then choose to have SpoofCard play it in the background. And if you’re looking to prank a group of people, you can add a couple of people to the call and they can listen in.

If you want to test out the integrity of SpoofCard, they’ll gladly give you 60 seconds to try out their service. You can try out spoofing with a call or spoofing with a text message. As a bonus, they’ll even allow calls from outside of the United States, of course, with an increase in their charge rate.

You can nab SpoofCard for both iOS and Android.

Bottom Line

Now that you’ve learned how to spoof your phone number, be sure to use it for good. Remember: it’s illegal to spoof with intentions of nabbing personal information, causing harm and fraud. Unless you want to see heavy fines and jail time, you best keep the spoofing to harmless pranks or, better yet, for your own personal protection.