What to do when a stranger wants your digits


Sorry, retailers, you aren’t getting anything out of Jon Carver except payment for goods. No name, no telephone number, no address, no personal information whatsoever.

Not that he’s some kind of paranoid privacy freak. “The point is, it’s just really none of their business,” said Carver, 26, of Logan, Utah.

Carver quit shopping at one store because clerks kept asking for his telephone number at checkout, for customer identification purposes. Now if pressed by a retailer he resorts to a fake name (“usually in Haitian Creole”), false address (sometimes a college residence hall substituted for a street name), and a telephone number several digits from his own.

Whether using cash or a credit card, shoppers often are quizzed about their telephone numbers. It annoys many. Carver even goes through elaborate backtracking when purchasing something online: He places the order with the correct personal information, then updates his profile with different data.

Changeable numbers

And the issue arises elswhere. People need numbers to give out to folks they don’t know well – say, an online acquaintance.

It’s an opening for anonymous telephone number services such as FreeDigits.com. Users create an untraceable, changeable public phone number that automatically routes calls to their real telephone.

Meet a nice girl in a chatroom? Give her that “virtual” number. Hesitating before giving that cute guy in the bar access to your real telephone? Provide him your “public” number. Don’t want to talk to either anymore? Change the number.