How to Send an Anonymous Text from Your Smartphone
Want to keep your identity private? Here's how to text anonymously using your phone, the internet or third-party apps.
Let’s face it, many people prefer the ease and efficiency of texting over other methods of communication. But that means you need to be just as cautious about the safety and privacy of your text messages as you are with online security. You can hide text messages, turn off read receipts, stop spam texts, protect against smishing and even brush up on iPhone security. And one additional way to protect your privacy with outgoing messages is by sending an anonymous text.
Maybe you want to discreetly warn a friend about something, attend a protest or express your displeasure at the latest corporate policy. Maybe you’re trying to sell something on Facebook Marketplace and want to give people an easy way to contact you. Or maybe you want to reach out to a business without them having your contact info. Wouldn’t it be nice to send a text in these situations without your number showing up?
Can you send a text anonymously?
The simple answer is yes. But to send an anonymous text, you’ll need to use a third-party service, whether it’s a VoIP service, an app or a website. When you send a text normally, the message is sent in one or more digital “packets,” along with information about the number it was sent from and to. This info tells the phone service carrier whom to bill. (It’s part of the reason sending sensitive info is one thing you should never do in a text message.)
When you send a text anonymously, your number is stripped out of the packet and substituted with another random number before your message is delivered to the recipient.
Can anonymous texts be traced?
Under most circumstances, no. Since your true phone number is not included when the message is sent, anonymous texts cannot be traced.
However, law enforcement can trace anonymous texts if they are used for criminal or malicious purposes, including harassment or scams. Some anonymous texting apps (see below) keep logs of users’ actual contact info, according to cyber investigation company Rexxfield. Since scammers know how to send texts anonymously too, these are the texts you should delete immediately. (And if you’ve accidentally deleted a text you meant to keep, here’s how to retrieve it.)
How to send an anonymous text via the internet
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) allows users to make a phone call or send a text using the internet. When you make a call, your voice is converted into a digital signal and transmitted via the internet rather than via traditional phone lines. Similarly, you can send a text message using VoIP on your desktop computer, phone or any other device connected to high-speed internet.
To use VoIP, you need to sign up with a service or download an app, which will assign you a virtual phone number that isn’t connected to your identity in any way. That way, only your virtual number shows up on the recipient’s phone, and you can text anonymously.
Many VoIP services are aimed at providing comprehensive communications packages for small businesses, so they are priced higher, with the cheapest plans starting around $15 per month from providers like Dialpad, Grasshopper and Nextiva. For this reason, most individuals might prefer to download a VoIP app, like Google Voice, which offers unlimited SMS texting in the U.S., along with voice calling from a virtual number, for desktop computers and mobile devices.
How to send an anonymous text via an app
Your phone is packed with iPhone tricks that will make your life easier. Similarly, third-party apps are here to make anonymous texting simple. Many use a VoIP number instead of your own. Some apps have additional features, like the ability to change the appearance of your message or to forward a text message to your email account. Some also tout enhanced security measures. Most are intuitive to use and closely resemble the native messaging apps on most phones.
The Burner app lets users pick their own VoIP number (with a local area code) that can be used for calls or texts, including messages with photos. You can “burn” any number as soon as you’re done with it and get a new number next time you need to be anonymous.
The seven-day free trial lets you send up to 40 messages on either an iPhone or Android phone. After that, you’ll need to sign up for a subscription. Other apps that work in a similar fashion include TextFree, Text Me and TextNow.
Hushed also lets you select a virtual phone number in your own area code. It functions like a second phone line for you: You can use it for texting or calls, receiving voicemails and call forwarding. But even though this virtual number will show up on recipients’ phones, it isn’t linked to you and can’t be traced back to you. It isn’t required that you sign up with a valid email address or phone number to verify identity, so Hushed really focuses on end-to-end encryption.
You can get a prepaid plan starting at $2 per month or a plan that includes unlimited calls and texts for $4 per month.
How to turn off caller ID on your phone
Remember hitting *67 on your landline before an outgoing call? While it’s not as simple, both Apple and Android phones have settings that allow you to block your phone number so you can send an anonymous text. It’s one of those iPhone hacks you’ll wish you knew sooner. However, this feature is not available for Verizon customers who use iPhones. Here’s how to do it for all other carriers:
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- Go to Settings.
- Scroll down and tap Phone.
- Scroll down and tap Show My Caller ID, and then toggle off the button.
- Open the Phone app, and then the Menu.
- Select Settings, then Call Settings.
- Tap Additional Settings, then Caller ID.
- Open the Caller ID drop-down menu and select Hide My Number.
How to send an anonymous text via email
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You can send a text message using email so your phone number doesn’t show up. And while that is true, your email address does show. So unless you use a secondary email address (one that doesn’t include your name and that nobody knows is yours), it’s not truly anonymous.
Still, if you’d like to give this a try, you just need to know your recipient’s phone number and what phone provider they use. If you don’t know their provider, you can look it up using a service like FreeCarrierLookup.com.
Once you have that information, you’ll need to know whether to use the SMS or MMS format. SMS is for text-only messages (and carriers may limit this to 160 characters or break it up into several messages). MMS is for longer texts, photos, music or other multimedia attachments.
Use the appropriate email format below. For example, if you email [email protected], the body copy of the email will show up as a text on that person’s phone.
SMS/MMS: [email protected]
How to send an anonymous text via a website
Some websites provide anonymous texting services either for free or for a small cost, usually by switching their own number with yours. Some require you to set up an account with a username or password, and some ask you to set one up using a fictional name and phone number. Others allow complete anonymity. Many limit how many characters you can send in your text or don’t work internationally.
However, some of these appear to be geared toward nefarious uses and others show red flags of not being secure, so proceed with caution if you decide to give one a try.
Additional reporting by Claire Nowak.