What is a Virtual Phone Number?
I started Tossable Digits in 2006 to keep my personal cell phone off the Internet while still taking calls about my car for sale. At the time I called the phone numbers I sold "Real Numbers," but that didn't really describe what I was selling.
The Wikipedia entry on "Virtual Number" was first added in 2009. It succintly defines a Virtual Phone Number as
a telephone number without a directly associated telephone line.
and goes further to say
Subscribers to virtual [phone] numbers may use their existing phones, without the need to purchase additional hardware.
That's what we do, plus add a whole lot of included features!
Virtual Phone Numbers are sometimes called follow-me numbers or number masking, because they allow you to be found anywhere in the world, and they hide your real physical location and keep your real direct phone number private.
Sometime around 2009 we switched to using the term Virtual Phone Numbers for our service. And because I had been doing this for 3 years, I just figured everyone knew what I meant when I said "I sell Virtual Phone Numbers."
So consider this your guide to the powerful Virtual Phone Number.
Any phone number can become a Virtual Phone Number. Through a process called porting, you can turn any landline, business or mobile phone number into a Virtual Phone Number by transferring it to Tossable Digits.
Virtual Phone Numbers are like chameleons -- each one can work differently, and in the case of Tossable Digits, you can treat different callers differently, just like you can with Google Voice. You can turn on Voicemail and SMS, or just Call Recording, and then add Call Screening so the caller can announce themselves in their own voice.
Still wrapping your head around this concept? I learn best through example, so here are some examples that might give you a better idea about how Virtual Phone Numbers work and why they are useful to you.
Example 1: Mary Moves to Denver
Mary lived in Austin, Texas for 13 years, and has had the same 512 number since she moved there. But now her family is moving to Denver, Colorado. AT&T says they cannot keep the phone number. So many of Mary's friends and family have her 512 number in their phones, she just cannot lose the number.
Tossable Digits to the rescue! Mary ports her 512 number to Tossable Digits, turning it from a landline into a Virtual Phone Number. When someon calls Mary's 512 number now, she's told Tossable Digits to try forwarding the call to her new Denver-based mobile, but if she doesn't answer, to take a message with a custom recorded Voicemail message specific to her 512 number. And since Call Recording is included, she turned that on too, in case she needs to review what was said on a call. Plus she enabled Robocall Blocking so none of those annoying robocallers interrupt her day.
Mary kept her Austin 512 number while physically in Denver, nobody had to change the phone number long stored in their phones and brains, and Mary gets to stay in touch with all her friends, old neighbors and family. Plus now she can get SMS messages on her 512 number!
Example 2: David Needs Cost Savings
CenturyLink is charging David $35 per month to keep his Boston home landline active, and Verizon is charging him $23 per month to keep his other landline active at his vacation home in The Hamptons (you totally could rent that out on AirBNB, David). He doesn't really need the physical home phone, but he's had both numbers for 7 years and doesn't want to miss calls.
After a few wild Google searches, David finds this Tossable Digits blog post, sees his name in Example 2, and realizes he could spend less than $10 per month to keep both phone numbers active by porting them both to Tossable Digits and making them Virtual Phone Numbers. He forwards his home landline number to his cell phone, and the Hamptons number to his socialite tennis-playing wife's mobile.
Example 3: Robert Goes Abroad
Robert has had his Los Angeles, California Sprint (really Robert?) number for many years, but he doesn't want to pay Sprint for service while he's gone. But he also doesn't want to lose his phone number. What can he do?
Luckily a friend mentions Tossable Digits. A few days before jetting off to Ecuador (2014 Best Expat Destination winner), he ports his number to Tossable Digits. He sets up a custom recorded voicemail message that tells people he will be unavailable for a few days while he moves to Ecuador, but to leave a message and he'll pick it up and respond soon. Voicemails get sent to Robert in an email with an MP3 attachment so he can listen to them en route and respond via email.
When he arrives, he gets an Ecuador SIM card and sets his LA number to forward to his Ecuador phone number so he can still get calls from the US. Plus since Tossable Digits Virtual Phone Numbers support SMS Text Messaging, he can use the website to stay in touch via SMS, and even get SMS messages via email.
And when Robert comes back to the US, he can port his LA number back to Sprint (or any carrier). We'll be sad to see Robert leave, but we'll help him port it anywhere else. No fees, no hassles.
Pretty cool, right? There are a lot more ways that our customers use our Virtual Phone Numbers:
- Inexpensive Ad Tracking - See how effective your Newspaper and Yellow Page ads are
- Selling Online - Keep your real direct number private and off the Internet, use one of our Virtual Phone Numbers instead
- Student Contact Number - Teachers can use a Virtual Number to call parents and control when calls ring through to their real phone
- Dump That Second Phone - It's 2016. Dump that second phone but keep the phone number