A virtual phone number can be used for several purposes:
- To provide a “disposable” phone number for use in a venue such as Craigslist or eBay, in order to protect privacy and prevent phone spamming.
- To associate a unique number with an advertising campaign.
- To create a sense of local presence for a company capable of conducting business from a distance, or to allow calling at local rates for distance customers
There are to be several sources for virtual phone numbers:
This video explains the Google Voice service:
You also can check out this web page Google provides about Google voice.
Provides local number with forwarding with caller ID and voice mail. Tiered pricing plans, with the lowest tier at $9.95/month (special prices are sometimes available). Can also be used to make outgoing calls. There are no per-minute charges, but there is an account limit per month. The company is based in New York City.
Provides forwarding with do-not-disturb, voice mail, and call screening (based on caller being asked to provide their name). Extensions can be created that, I think, go to separate voice mail boxes. They cover a large number of area codes and support number porting. They also allow number changing. Tiered pricing plans, with the lowest tier at $6.99/mo for 60 minutes ($.10 per additional minute).
Provide numbers for a very limited set of area codes (all East Coast). Unlimited in-bound calls for $7.95 (basic) or $11.95 per month. Premium plan allows something like whitelisting and blacklisting based on caller ID,
Provides USA and international numbers. You can forward to a PSTN or cell phone, or to a VOIP number. They also offer call recording, in addition to voice mail and fax-to-email. Check their website for current rates and plans.
Provides USA and international numbers. Calls can be forwarded to any number in the world, including multiple numbers which can ring simultaneously or sequentially. Features include voice mail, fax, call log, time-of-day routing, auto attendant with multiple extensions (can be forwarded to different phones). Check website for current rates and plans. Based in Los Angeles.
According to VOIP News (www.voip-news.com), they are a real phone company, and unlike companies that rent phone numbers from real phone companies, you can be sure of keeping your number.
Spoken Buzz used to have a virtual phone number service that worked via a website and could be used with any phone. That service is no longer available. Now there is Incognito, which works only with certain smartphones. Incognito assigns you a virtual number that will appear to callers as the number you are dialing from, and it also will forward incoming calls (made to the virtual number) to your smartphone. An Incognito virtual number can be retained for up to 1 week. There is a per-minute charge for use of the service, but no other fees (so you pay only if you actually make or receive calls using he virtual number).
Voice Mailbox Only
Free service, no credit card required. Provides simple voice mail (with email notification) or a voice messaging system with multiple voice mail boxes under a main extension.
Provides a number that can be used to receive voice mail for free or for $4.95/month (first month free) to get a local area code and some extra features. Also provides a virtual PBX service with three extension, forwarding, and per-extension voice mail at $29.95/month for 1000 minutes.
Provides numbers that can be used to receive faxes or voice mail. These are sent to an email account rather than to a forwarding number. If you want to specify your area code, you need to subscribe to their paid service. If you are willing to take pot luck, you can get a free number.
Similar to J2, but only $8.95/month. Local and toll-free numbers available.
Call Forwarding with Analytics
Mongoose Metrics – www.mongoosemetrics.com
Provides numbers that can be used in combination with other analytics to track the effectiveness of an online advertising campaign. Their blog (click on Resources) contains useful tips on making effective use of their service.