Hide Behind Vumber's Phone Numbers

A new service lets you be anonymous—great for dodging a stalker or a shopper.

By + More

Corrected on 1/29/08: An earlier version of this blog post said making Vumber calls requires pushing 20 buttons, including a security code. When calling from certain phones, the security code is not necessarily required.

Dating these days can be a scary process, from what this married man reads. Those psycho stalker dates make the most dramatic case for throwaway phone numbers now available from a couple of services, including one that officially launched this week called Vumber.

The numbers also have strong appeal to us nondaters. They can add a layer of privacy when, for example, selling something through a classified ad.

Vumber gives you a number that will ring whatever landline or cellphone you choose. The monthly $5 charge (which will be going to $10 sometime later) includes voicemail and the ability to change numbers. The first three changes come free of charge, and later switches each cost $2.

Especially cool: You can use the same number to make calls. Recipients don't see your real number on their caller ID.

The company originally expected the numbers to be temporary. But it turns out that in beta testing, the numbers have proved sticky with users, says CEO Cliff Wener: "Unless you've got somebody stalking you, you're going to keep the number."

On the downside, making calls can mean pushing at least 20 buttons—your "vumber" and then the number you're calling, plus a security code. And there's no way to cut off just the creeps. You have to change your vumber and alert everyone you gave it to.

But Vumber works as advertised. It's easy protection for when you're selling something in an ad—especially if that something is you.