How to hide your phone number when calling families at home during coronavirus

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With many schools going to online learning during the coronavirus outbreak, more and more teachers have found themselves needing to call students and families for a variety of reasons β€” checkins, IEP meetings and more.

However, most teachers don’t want students or guardians to have access to their cell or home phone number.

There are a few easy, free and low cost ways to get around this.

Vertical calling code *67

  • Use the “vertical calling code” *67 before calling parents.
  • This will block your number from caller ID.
  • It’s a good idea to test this out first by calling your spouse or a friend. Also note that some phone lines block unlisted numbers or send them directly to voicemail.
  • It’s also a good idea to let families know you will be calling from an unlisted number so they don’t ignore it.

Google Voice

  • Use a free internet calling service such as Google Voice to make and receive calls. Google Voice gives you a free number (with many local numbers available) and will forward it to any verified phone number you provide.
  • If you school uses G Suite for Education, it may not allow you to use Google Voice with your school email address, but you should be able to switch to your personal Google account to create one if you get an error when setting up an account via your work account.
  • It also lets you place outgoing calls, with the Google Voice number listed as the caller ID. This works by having you enter the number you want to call and then the service calls your cell phone to connect the call.
  • There are also a variety of ways to handle incoming calls, including screening. This is helpful because it not only avoids giving out your “real” number but it still allows families to call you back.
  • This method typically avoids unlisted number blocking issues, though keep in mind some phones block phone numbers not in the users’ address book, so you may want to let families know what number you’ll be calling for and having them add it to their address book.
  • Once the coronavirus crisis is over, you can either keep the number active but forward all calls to your school phone or make it accept incoming voicemail only.
  • Alternatively, you can delete your number permanently.
  • Another option is to change the number, which costs a one time fee of $10. Note that once you change the number, Google keeps your old number active for 90 days.

School phone system

  • Your school phone systems may also allow you to place outbound calls remotely using your cell phone but listing the school number as the caller ID.
  • This is most common with VoIP enabled systems.
  • Check with your school’s technology team for details if this is available and instructions on how to use it.
  • This method, if available, may be preferable since families may already recognize the school number or your extension number.
  • If using this method, keep in mind that some schools use the main number of the building or district office for all outgoing calls, so families trying to call back may have to use an automated directory or know your extension if no one is answering live calls.

Unused landline

  • Many cable TV or internet packages include a free phone line and some households never set it up.
  • You may be able to activate or set up this line to use during remote learning and then just disconnect the phone from it when you don’t want to get calls or remote learning ends.
  • Some providers include a web based interface to place calls that won’t require any wiring or equipment, but check with your provider’s support team.
  • This works best if you have never used the phone feature and don’t plan on using it in the future.
  • Some providers may let you change the number for free or a small fee if you find you want to continue using it.

Prepaid cell phones

  • This one will cost you some money, but can be a good option and simple enough to use that make the small cost worthwhile.
  • Many convenience stores, drug stores and big box retailers sell prepaid cell phones complete with a handset and unique number.
  • You can give out this number freely and make calls with it without having to worry about blocking your number.
  • Since anyone with the number can call the phone, you may want to consider a “voicemail only” policy for incoming calls and indicate that you don’t answer calls but will gladly return calls.
  • However, be sure to let families know what number you’ll be calling from.
  • Once remote learning is done, you can just switch off the phone, cancel the plane or, in some cases, change the number and just not give it out.
  • As an added bonus, even if your phone runs out of minutes, it should still be able to place calls to 911 in the U.S., so it can be useful to keep for emergencies β€” or give it to a family member for that use. Some nonprofits also accept donations of old, inactive phones so they can given them to at risk people for emergency use only.

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