How To Hide Your Phone Number in Telegram
If you are interested in secure communications, then you have probably heard of Telegram, a cloud-based messaging and VOIP service. Telegram offers apps for the Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows NT, macOS and Linux environments. Using Telegram, users can anonymously send messages, photos, video streams, audio files, and other files. Telegram has become very popular among security-minded users; as of March 2018, the service had more than 200 million active monthly users and claims annual growth rates in the mid-double digits.
However, despite all the hype, Telegram is not a particularly secure communications app. Messages are encrypted only on the client side, and cryptography experts have critiqued the app’s security architecture, particularly the way in which all contacts and messages are stored together with their decryption keys, and the lack of end-to-end encryption for messages. In addition, Telegram’s custom encryption protocol has been demonstrated to have significant security and reliability issues.
Although its security level is exaggerated in the public mind, Telegram has still been confronted with calls for censorship or bans because of the perception that the app is used to facilitate illegal activities such as criminal transactions, terrorist coordination, and political protests. CEO Pavel Durov has made promises that Telegram will never bow to government pressure to turn over information, but such promises are in no way enforceable.
For these reasons, many users still send messages via Telegram (it is convenient, and offers at least SOME security) but want to anonymize themselves while using the service. Specifically, a lot of people would like to use Telegram but still hide their phone number from the app. In this article, I will walk you through how to do just that.
Hide your phone number in Telegram
- Hide your phone number in Telegram
- Other useful Telegram privacy tips
- How to Avoid Giving Out Your Number
When you sign up for Telegram, you have to give the app permission to make and receive calls on your phone, and give the app your phone number. This is of course a huge privacy issue; if someone gets access to the Telegram server, your identity is compromised. Unfortunately, if you want to sign up for Telegram on your primary phone, then you have to give this information up. However, Telegram does not then use the number to communicate with you, and it does not share the number with other users. The username on your account becomes your identifying token for the service.
Other Telegram users will only be able to see your phone number if you have theirs stored in your phone and sync your contacts with Telegram. That includes friends, anyone in your phone contacts and anyone you have willingly shared your phone number with. For example, if you make a new friend on Telegram or give your username to that cute guy or girl you see in the coffee shop, they will not see your phone number until you have theirs or you have given them yours. Only once you have added their contact information to the contacts in your phone will they be able to see your number.
It is a simple system that maintains a semblance of privacy. As long as you do not add the person’s number to your phone contacts, all they will see is your Telegram username. There is, however, a way to circumvent this, giving you the ability to add people to your contacts without them seeing your number. To do so, follow these steps:
- Open Telegram and tap “Settings.”
- Tap “Privacy and Security,” scroll down, and tap “Data Settings.”
- Toggle “Sync Contacts.”
- Your contacts will no longer sync, keeping anyone from viewing your number.
Other useful Telegram privacy tips
Telegram does try to maintain your privacy within the app. Messages are stored on your device, not on Telegram’s servers, keeping them safe from prying eyes. They cannot be forwarded to other people, which keeps them from being accidentally seen by the wrong person. And when a message is deleted, it’s deleted for both parties – so you can control what the other person sees in the chat. There are, however, a few more tweaks you can make to Terminal to make your conversations even more private. Here are just a couple of ways to make Telegram more secure.
Telegram has a Secret Chat feature that uses end-to-end encryption and will self-destruct at a preset time. You will need to set a timer for these chats, but aside from that the process is automatic. For those chats you never want found, this is a very cool feature.
- Open a secret chat in Telegram.
- Select the three dot menu icon.
- Select “Set self-destruct timer” and set a time.
Once the timer has started, all messages within that chat session will be deleted when it expires. In addition, Telegram disables the screenshot functionality of your smartphone when you are in a secret chat, adding another layer of security.
Hide screenshots from your phone gallery
If you don’t want your Telegram screenshots appearing in your phone’s media gallery, you can hide them. You can specify exactly what media can and cannot be viewed from outside Telegram, which can save you from accidentally revealing pictures while scrolling through your photos.
- Select Telegram Settings.
- Toggle “Save to gallery” to Off.
- Open the Settings app.
- Select “Privacy and Photos.”
- Toggle “Telegram” to off.
You will still be able to view that media from within Telegram, but it will not be visible from anywhere else on your device.
Set a Passcode
If others have access to your phone and you want to maintain your privacy, you can set a passcode for Telegram. This locks down the app and stops anyone else from being able to use or view the app unless they know your passcode.
- Open Telegram and tap “Settings.”
- Tap “Privacy and Security.”
- Tap “Passcode,” then “Turn Passcode On.”
- Enter and re-enter your passcode, if prompted.
From now on, you will need to enter your PIN when you first start Telegram. Make sure you remember your PIN or store it in a safe place – it is the only way to access your Telegram account.
Hide Last seen for selected contacts in Telegram
As you likely know, Telegram shows other people the last time you used the app. If you’re trying to avoid someone or want to chat without being seen, follow these steps.
- Open “Settings” in the Telegram app.
- Select “Privacy and Security.”
- Tap “Last Seen”
- Select either Everybody, My Contacts or Nobody. You can also set exceptions. This allows you to add a contact that will always be excluded from the last seen notifier.
How to Avoid Giving Out Your Number
So if you read carefully above, you see that there’s no way to get signed up for Telegram without giving them a phone number. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be YOUR number. Because Telegram uses the number only for initial account verification, you don’t need to give them a number that connects to you in any way, other than that you need to have access to it once, when you get the account set up. There are a number of ways you can get set up on Telegram while leaving no traceable connection to your actual identity.
Borrow a Landline
You don’t have to use a cell phone to sign up for Telegram. Any number will do – if you can’t receive an SMS, Telegram will call a voice number and give you the verification code that way. There are still pay phones in the world and some of them still even accept incoming calls. Alternatively, you can borrow a phone in a library or a shop. Many health care facilities have public phones in the lobby where people can make calls – you can use that number. As long as you can take the one call from Telegram, you can use that number and be totally untraceable.
Use Google Voice
Google Voice is the VOIP service provided by Google. A Google Voice account gives you a local telephone number, which has to be connected to a Google account, but creating a new, anonymous Google account is trivially easy.
- Sign out of all your Google accounts. Ideally, just go to a public computer which has no cache or history of your online activity.
- Sign up for a new Google account.
- Once you have a new account, connect it to a new Google Voice account.
- Choose a phone number.
- Sign up for Telegram and give your Google Voice number as the contact number.
- Retrieve the authorization code from your Google Voice account and input it into Telegram.
Use a Temporary Number
If you don’t want to go through the hoops to create a new Google pseudonym, you can just sign up for a burner number. There are any number of services that will give you a temporary phone number, or even a second number, without making you do much in the way of verifying or establishing your identity.
There are several sites you can use, but FreePhoneNum has a free service which is ideal for your purposes here. You can get a temporary number from this site absolutely free, a number that then is recycled and used over and over again by other people later on. Since this site and Telegram are completely unrelated companies, there will be no connection to show that you are the particular user who used that temporary number to sign up for Telegram.
- Visit FreePhoneNum and pick one of the numbers displayed.
- In Telegram, enter the number you selected.
- Wait for the SMS from Telegram with the verification code to display at FreePhoneNum.
- Enter that verification code into Telegram.
Use an actual burner phone
It’s still possible to buy old feature phones (that is, phones that aren’t smartphones but still work on the cellular network) from places like thrift stores or on the private market. Or you can buy someone else’s old phone which still has SMS service on it temporarily for a few dollars. This is a somewhat shady part of the phone resale world, because all of these phones are generally bought specifically to do crimes with, but in and of itself it isn’t illegal to have a phone that isn’t connected to you. Once you have the phone, use it to sign up for Telegram and then throw it away. You can then sign in to Telegram on your main phone using your Telegram username and password, and won’t have to verify your identity any further.
Got any other suggestions for using Telegram or other messaging apps more securely? Share them with us in the comments below!
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