How to: set up“virtual number” call and SMS routing for ~$30/yr.

The Impetus: Getting Locked Out of Paypal

  • What would happen if I were to lose access to my personal cellphone number, or indeed the device itself?
  • What if I forgot to renew a cellphone contract, the carrier released it to another user, and the 2FA prompts irresponsibly contained some personally identifying information?
  • What if I were to find myself abroad in a country where I didn’t have a roaming plan active, and had no immediate way to buy one, but urgently needed to log in to Paypal or online banking?
  • Or what if I needed to receive a verification code in a place without cellphone reception?

The Problem with Using Commercial Virtual Number/SIP Trunking Providers For 2FA Verification Code Forwarding

  • Programmatic SMS providers, which work by API, abound. But most providers with a human-friendly UI that I contacted expressly stated that they did not support passing along verification codes.
  • VOIP/SIP trunking provider that offered call and SMS relaying on virtual +972 cellphones had pretty extensive identity verification processes, and I couldn’t find reliable Trustpilot reviews about many of them.
  • Fraud is a big concern in the virtual number space. This makes sense, given that they effectively allow you to spoof your location.

Hardware, Software, and Other Resources

  • Just about the cheapest 4G/LTE Android on the market: the Doopro P4 Pro (at the time of writing: $49.91 on Aliexpress). I kept the battery in and also hooked it up to the mains over micro USB. It’s connected to a WiFi connection and both it and the router powering the connection are drawing power through a UPS (giving the cellphone two non-concurrent backup power reservoirs). A 3G handset would, of course, also have worked fine. But the UPS and cellular data provide some redundancy in the event of both WiFi and power outages.
  • The cheapest line subscription that I could find (the device’s sole purpose is obviously to receive texts, route them to email, and receive calls and forward them to my personal cellphone). The average monthly bill is about 10 NIS ($2.73) as generally no data is used. In other geographies, it may be cheaper to use a pre-paid plan, work out the carrier’s automatic disconnection period (in my experience, usually independent from the time zero credit is reached), and then set a reminder to top up the credit right before that.
  • SMS Forwarder to copy all SMS messages to my email.
  • Teamviewer QuickSupport in case I need to remotely make configuration changes

Some Finishing Touches

  • A microphone blocker app to disable the microphone at the application level.
  • Some black masking tape to physically block the device’s front and rear cameras. A blocker app as an additional precaution against malware camera activation.
  • I configured the call forwarding with the carrier, but could also have usedfor the same purpose.
  • AutoResponder for WhatsApp to let recipients know that their message hasn’t been read and to provide my email address (I could have foregone using WhatsApp on the line but figured it could be useful).



Technically-minded business ghostwriter Daniel Rosehill offers some how-tos, opinions, and general geekery. Particular interests: Linux, multimonitor computing, GPUs, cloud computing.

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Daniel Rosehill

Daytime: writing for other people. Nighttime: writing for me. Or the other way round. Enjoys: Linux, tech, beer, random things.