How to give a fake phone number

When people ask you for your phone number, you may not always want to give it to them. Sometimes it may be a stranger in a pub, while other times it may be a survey taker or shopkeeper who wants this information. It can be difficult to say no outright to such requests, and saying no can lead to a confrontation that you may want to avoid. One alternative in such circumstances is to provide a fake phone number.

How to give a fake phone number

Prepare in advance. Even small children can recite their phone numbers when asked - so if you are asked for your phone number and have to think about what it is, the person who asked will likely suspect you of not being truthful. Choose your fake number before you go out, and if you know that you are not good at lying, you may even want to practise saying it until you sound natural.

Choose a number that will be believable and easy to remember. Make sure that you use an appropriate prefix (beginning with 07) if giving a mobile number or a geographic area code that matches the location where you live (or have claimed to live) if giving a home number. One easy way to make your number believable is to change just one or two of the later digits in your real phone number. Making only small changes to your real number will also make your fake number easier to remember and recite.

Smile and say your number confidently, and make sure that the requester has the opportunity to record it.

To avoid any awkwardness, it is usually best to leave the situation as soon as possible. If you are giving the fake number to a survey taker or shopkeeper, simply leave. If you are at a pub or other social gathering, try saying that you need to find your friend or use the toilet.


Now that virtually everyone has a mobile phone, a potential suitor may adopt the technique of entering your number directly into his or her mobile when you provide it - and may then ring you on the spot to test the number and to make sure you have his or hers as well. This turn of events can be very embarrassing if you have given a fake phone number. One option is to always give a home, or landline, phone number.

Another option if you have a smart phone is to use an app that lets you sign up for temporary, or burner, phone numbers (see Reference 2; try searching for "temporary phone number" to find an app that will work for you). These numbers will work on the spot if you set them up in advance, and can be disabled later so that you are unreachable. There is usually a charge for each number that you choose, but you may consider that the price of avoiding an awkward situation.


Keep in mind that if you provide a fake phone number to a potential suitor, he or she may still suffer hurt feelings later, even if you do not have to witness his or her disappointment.

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About the Author

Jessica Cameron is based in Edinburgh, Scotland (having recently relocated from San Francisco, CA), and has been publishing papers about psychology and business in academic journals since 2009. She received a PhD in psychology from Stanford University.