Despite their popular image, are burner phones truly anonymous?

Burner phones are often associated with criminal kingpins on the big screen to spies in real life. Temporary and anonymous, burner phones are a must for anyone who values privacy.

But the truth is, burner phones aren’t truly anonymous sometimes.

And it’s not so much an issue with burner phones themselves, but rather with how you buy and use a burner phone.

Still unsure why burner phones may be traceable? Read on to find out.

So, are burner phones truly anonymous?

By itself, a burner phone is truly anonymous.

Burner phones allow you to use burner phone numbers. These can be virtual phone numbers or even fake phone numbers that reliably receive calls and texts, but cannot be traced back to the person using them.

Burner phones, by themselves, cannot be traced back to their users

Burner phone numbers can be used for as long as you like. Keep them as a long-term second phone number, or get rid of them after you’ve done what you needed to.

Most burner phones also usually do not come with online features that require WiFi or mobile data.

Because you won’t be connecting to the internet on a burner phone, it’s impossible to trace you via your IP address or online accounts either.

But when are burner phones not anonymous?

Still, there are situations where burner phones aren’t exactly untraceable.

Situation 1: If you bought your burner phone on a contract.

Just because a cheap cell phone is labelled a burner phone doesn’t automatically mean that the calls and texts you make are completely anonymous.

(image credit: Whats Your Tech) Avoid buying a burner phone on a contract

In the US, major retailers like Walmart require an identity registration upon purchase. In some cases, retailers will also ask that you complete a phone contract.

This means that in order to start using your burner phone, you’ll need to disclose important personal information that can link the burner phone to your identity.

That’s why burner phones are not really anonymous if you bought one on a contract.

To make sure that your burner phone is truly untraceable, you should only buy one from retailers that allow upfront cash payments.

Situation 2: Burner phones may be “locked” to a particular carrier.

(image credit: Forbes) Some burner phones may be "locked" to a particular mobile carrier.

Also, not all burner phones are created equal.

There are mostly two types of burner phones:

  1. “Locked” burner phones that have SIM cards fixed to a particular mobile carrier
  2. “Unlocked” burner phones that allow you to freely slot in a SIM card of your choice

“Locked” burner phones tend to require identity registration. Because these types of burner phones are linked to a single phone number, these phones are actually traceable by mobile carriers.

Situation 3: If you use your burner phone for online activity

Do not use your burner phone for any online activity

Most burner phones are plain and simple.

But some burner phones are also cheap versions of smartphones. These burner phones pack more functionality, letting you use the internet on-the-go.

Your online activity on your burner phone can, however, make it traceable.

That’s because your internet service provider, or ISP, can track what you do online on your burner phone.

If you log into an online account on your burner phone, it’s also possible to that your online activity can also be traced back to you.

Situation 4: If you use a burner phone for extended periods of time

Refrain from using your burner phone for long periods at a time

More importantly, burner phones add almost nothing to your privacy if you use one repeatedly for some time.

Just like ordinary cell phones, burner phones also rely on the cellular network to connect your calls and texts to others.  When a burner phone is used repeatedly, it is possible to identify its location while powered on.

By following the digital trail left by the burner phone, law enforcement can derive a rough estimate of the locations where the phone was used and connect it back to you.

Stay truly anonymous with Burner phone apps

Ultimately, a burner phone is only truly anonymous and really untraceable when it’s:

  • Not tied to a contract
  • Not tied to a fixed burner phone number
  • Not used for online activity
  • Not used for long periods of time

Unlike physical burner phones however, you won’t need to worry about any of these with a burner phone app like our own Phoner burner number app.

Skip the hassle for easier privacy with our Phoner burner number app

When you get a burner phone number on Phoner, you won’t be asked to sign any contracts. Phoner also allows you to get as many phone numbers as you want, and use them for as long as you wish. Use them as temporary burner phone numbers, or keep them as permanent second phone numbers for business.

So, are burner phones truly anonymous? Depends on how you got them in the first place, and how you used them.

Burner phones are designed to be untraceable, but all it takes to no longer be anonymous are a couple of simple mistakes. Why take the risk when all you need is a nifty burner phone app that gets the job done better?