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Using your personal phone number for business? Here’s why you shouldn’t.

Using your personal phone number for business

When you’re starting a company it might seem ok to use your personal phone number for your business. After all, building your company is a huge part of your life and it’s hard to distinguish between the two. I know this pretty well as we started OpenPhone not too long ago.

There seems to be no reason to complicate things and get a separate business phone number. Your personal number works fine.

As your business grows, your phone becomes a mess.

Thought you were getting lots of spam calls before? It has gotten much worse.

Since business calls look the same as personal calls, using your phone has become a guessing game.

What makes matters worse is that your cell phone number reveals a lot of personal information about you. It’s not just a number anymore. By sharing it publicly you’re giving away the key to other information like your home address, date of birth, and names of your family members. Sounds creepy? It is.

Here is why using your personal phone number for business isn’t a good idea.

Never-ending spam calls

You’d be surprised how many entrepreneurs list their personal cell number on their website. Even if done temporarily, it can cause a lot of headaches down the road. When your personal phone number is published online, it’ll be scrapped by data aggregators which means it’ll be listed someone on the Internet.

ZoomInfo, WhitePages, and Manta are some aggregators you might have heard of.

There are many others you probably have not heard of that make your personal information way too easy to find. RocketReach, for example.

I found out about it when searching for my name + phone number on Google. Try it out yourself.

Searching for personal phone number on Google

I’ve claimed and removed my profile since, but here’s a snapshot of what information they had on me. They had some numbers I owned in the past and completely forgot about.

Rocketreach profile found that contained personal number
5 seconds to get my number and no credit card needed

As a founder, there are many places where your phone number ends up in the course of building your business, even if you don’t put it on your website:

  • Company filings with the SEC
  • US Department of Labor
  • Dun & Bradstreet profile (you have one if you’ve created an Apple Developer account for your company or applied for a US government contract)
  • Privacy Shield (ironic, I know)
  • Better Business Bureau
  • WHOIS / Domain registration
  • Facebook + Instagram pages for your company
  • Terms of Service and Privacy Policy
  • Google My Business
  • Email signature + Out of office reply
  • Customer invoices
  • Every SaaS product you sign up for

As you can imagine, this results in your personal number being public and easy to access for pretty much anyone online.

Just a piece of advice. I used my personal cell number as the company number and I still regret it a decade later (I get so many stupid calls). Don’t do what I did.

Michael Seibel, CEO at Y Combinator

Spam calls are annoying and distracting but what’s worse is the chance of having your identity stolen.

As Brian X Chen mentioned in his recent piece for the New York Times, your phone number is a stronger identifier than your full name. This leads us to the next reason you should not be using your personal number for your business.

Identity theft

A phone number reveals a lot more personal information than you’d think – a home address, past addresses, past phone numbers, full names of family members and more.

I tried it myself using White Pages Reverse Phone Lookup on one of my numbers and was shocked at the results.

Whitepages profile containing a personal number

You can see what information you can find based on your own number here.

It’ll cost you $2.50 per month to get 20 reports like this (though you can cancel anytime) or you could get a promo offer of $1 for 5 lookups. Nice to know there’s a Cyber Week special on my data.

Lookup for personal number to see if it's in Whitepages through Whitepages premium

You’ll want to remove your personal information right away. I certainly did.

There are two separate processes for removing your public information and premium (behind paywall) information.

  1. To opt-out of having your public (“free”) information shown, click here
  2. To remove your premium information (like your home address), submit a support request here and reference your profile

One of the new OpenPhone customers told me why she decided to get a separate business phone number after using her personal number for her company.

Someone called my bank on my behalf with a whole bunch of information about me, including my phone number. Why? Because my personal phone number is all over the internet linked to my startup. This has been a nuisance for a long time (ex: I got 2 inbound calls to my personal cell today for people trying to sell me something that’s not related to my business), but this really increased the urgency. So 1) having my personal number posted all over the internet = not good; 2) results in lots of inbound calls from unknown numbers, hard to parse if personal or business; 3) security issues linked to identity theft.

Founder at Y Combinator startup

After finding all the sources that are selling or giving away for free my own personal information, it’s clear just how vulnerable we are.

Doesn’t scale with your business

On a lighter note, another reason not to use your personal phone number for your business is that it doesn’t grow with your company. When your business grows beyond just you, you will want to provide access to the business number to your team.

If you’re using your personal number, that will be virtually impossible. Let’s face it, you’re not going to forward all calls from your personal cell number to your team. That means they’d be getting your personal calls too.

You might already have a team email inbox, so why shouldn’t your phone work that way too?

Here is what it looks like on OpenPhone.

OpenPhone desktop app

No way to set boundaries

When you use a personal phone number for business, a call from your bank may look the same as a call from a potential customer visiting your website. You don’t know how to respond or whether you should respond at all.

With a separate phone number, you know exactly when calls are business or personal and know immediately how to handle them. You can share access to the business phone with an assistant to take that load off your shoulders.

Using a business phone number gives me mentall freedom of not saying “who’s this” on every call. And also I don’t feel like I have to pick up every call.

Omri Mor – Co-Founder and CEO at Routable

Also, you can set boundaries on when you’re available for customer calls to manage expectations much better. Don’t want to set the precedent for answering calls at midnight? Set your business hours and disconnect when you’re not working.

Your time is your greatest asset and you’d rather not spend it on answering unnecessary calls.

What you should do instead

Start by removing your personal number from the places that publish it online. You’ll want to completely remove your information from some and update your personal number to a business number on others. We wrote exactly how to do it – How To Remove Your Personal Phone Number From The Internet

To get a business phone number you don’t need to buy a second phone, get a landline or set up a phone system. In under a minute you can be up and running with a powerful business phone number, right on top of your existing devices. That way, you have two phone numbers on one phone (or even more numbers if needed).

This is exactly what we’ve built at OpenPhone. Try out OpenPhone free for seven days and as always, contact us if you have any questions.

Photo by Jonah Pettrich on Unsplash

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