Turn Google Voice Into Your Own Private Bouncer or Receptionist

Let Google Voice serve as your own personal privacy firewall

Photo: Lambert / Getty

Do you have a Google Voice phone number yet? If you don't, you're missing out. Google Voice has some great features that can help you protect your privacy.

You can obtain your very own Google Voice phone number for free by following these instructions. You can keep your Google Voice phone number for life, or for at least as long as Google is willing to host it.

Why Would you Want a Google Voice Number?

There are lots of reasons for getting a Google Voice number but since this is a security site, we are going to focus on the personal privacy and security features of Google Voice that you can use to setup your own personal privacy firewall.

Choose a New Google Voice Number Instead of Porting an Existing Number

The reason for choosing a new Google Voice number versus porting an existing one is simple, it hides your real phone number(s) by using your Google Voice number as a proxy (go-between). The Google Voice infrastructure that manages call routing, blocking, and all the other Google Voice features acts as a privacy firewall between you and the people calling you. Think of your Google Voice number as a receptionist that decides how to route calls. If you port an existing number rather than choosing a new number then you lose this layer of abstraction.

Choose a Different Area Code for Your Google Voice Number

When you select your Google Voice number, you can choose a completely different area code from the one you actually reside in. Why is this a security feature? Choosing a different area code helps prevent someone from using your area code as a means of locating you.

Even the most novice internet detective can use a site like Melissa Data's Free Phone Number Location Lookup and, in many cases, simply enter your phone number and it will return your actual address, or at least provide the county of residence where the phone number is registered.

Choosing a different number for a different area code helps preserve your anonymity (at least a little bit) and doesn't give away your physical location.

So how do you set up Google Voice as a personal privacy firewall?

Turn on Time-based Call Routing

Don't you hate when you get a call in the middle of the night from some wrong number? Wouldn't it be nice if you could have all calls come into one number and then have your calls routed to either your home phone, work phone, cell phone, or sent straight to your voicemail depending on the time of day? Google Voice can do just that? It can even send the same caller to all of your numbers at the same time and then route the call to whichever one you pick up first.

With Time-based call Routing, you can decide what phone you want to ring depending on what time of day it is. The feature is sort of hidden, here's how to find it:

You can set up time-based routing from the Google Voice "Settings" page > Phones > Edit (under the phone number of choice) > Show Advanced Settings > Ring Schedule > Use custom schedule.

Set a Long Voicemail PIN Number

Everyone knows that voicemail hacking is alive and well due to the fact that many voicemail systems only use a 4-digit numeric PIN number. Google has beefed up Google Voice's voicemail security by allowing PIN numbers greater than 4 characters. You should definitely take advantage of the extended PIN length to make a stronger voicemail PIN.

Use Google Voice's Advanced Call Screening Features

If you want Google Voice to screen your calls as a receptionist would, then Google has you covered. Google Voice allows for insanely complex call screening. You can set up call screening based on your contacts, Google Circles, etc.

Call screening is Caller ID-based. You can create custom outgoing messages for callers based on who they are. You can also decide which phone you want Google to try you on based on the caller's caller ID information. This is a great feature for making sure you get calls from loved ones in emergency situations, as you can have Google try all your lines and connect them to whichever one you answer first.

Call screening can be enabled from the Settings > Calls > Call Screening menu.

Block Unwanted Callers

Google Voice makes it extremely easy to block callers that you don't ever want to talk to again. From your Google Voice inbox, click on a call from someone you want to block then click the "more" link in the message and choose "block caller". The next time the person calls they will get a message saying that the number "has been disconnected or is no longer in service" (at least for them).

If nothing else, the Google Voicemail Transcription feature can produce some pretty priceless translations. This feature alone is reason enough to get a Google Voice number.

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