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When travelling or living abroad for some time, I usually get a local sim-card. Sometimes I also cancel my contract back home, so I just have this local phone number furthermore I tend to lose my home SIM card (as they are tiny!) or it's not accessible in the moment (e.g. sitting in a cafe for wifi, left it in the hostel). Well baseline is: I don't have access to my "home" phone number.

Then as I use different devices during traveling, I get asked to verify my account (e.g. Airbnb, Paypal) via SMS. And hey, there's the problem! It's really annoying, so anybody has some advice on how to avoid this? (Except telling me, that I should keep a better eye on my SIM card)

  • 1
    At least for the US, Google Voice offers a free cell phone number that can be forwarded to any number of your choice. I'm not sure if it works everywhere, but may be worth investigating. – Laconic Droid Jul 26 '16 at 13:34
  • Unfortunately just for the US so far :( – Lotte Jul 26 '16 at 13:40
  • That's a shame. I did a little more research, and if you are outside the US there is way to use Google voice that involves setting up a US number (with a VPN) and forwarding Google Voice to Skype which can then forward them to any cell phone number. Details Here – Laconic Droid Jul 26 '16 at 13:43
  • I don't know how this could work with SIMs on different networks, but many times I was able to redirect calls/texts from one number to the other. It's done on the network level so you don't even need to keep the phone or SIM after, everything will go to the other number – blackbird Jul 26 '16 at 13:46
  • @LaconicDroid that article looks ancient – blackbird Jul 26 '16 at 14:02
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The reason airbnb, google and other companies ask you to verify your account is often due to geolocation, i.e. you will be asked to verify your account if previously you normally used a service from, say, London, and now you're using it from Vancouver.

I avoid this situation when faced with annoying service providers (particularly google), by using a VPN when accessing them. Since I'm always using the same VPN with the same apparent location (my VPN provider lets me choose), the service sees me in the same place and doesn't request reauthentication.

Traditionally a VPN (Virtual Private Network):

enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network.

However, VPNs are also often used to bypass geographical restrictions such as using google in China, or a video streaming service outside of your home country. They're also used to protect your browsing and other communications from snooping or manipulation on an untrusted network such as a hotel or coffee shop.

I've also travelled to places where I didn't want to, or wasn't allowed to take my phone. I would leave the phone with a family member and inform them I might need them to read SMS messages to me. A slight alternative would be to change the phone number to someone you trust that isn't travelling and ask them to forward messages to you.

Services also store tokens in smart phone applications that allow them to recognise that it is being used by the normal user, and only if the application is installed on a new phone, would you be asked to authenticate. In this case, carrying your original phone with the apps installed, may evade the requirement to reauthenticate.

SMS authentication is likely to be phased out in the medium term as it is often seen as insecure.

  • Consider giving link on how to setup VPN or what is a VPN, I try not to assume people are technical enough to know just because this is SE – blackbird Jul 26 '16 at 14:03
  • @blackbird57 Good point. Will do – Berwyn Jul 26 '16 at 14:05
  • I avoid the phone number problems by never giving my phone number for verification purposes. Partly as I do not trust big companies to keep it secure. Mostly I get a mail on a different mail system and have to log in there. Now I just have to hope the mail provider is not going to be 'smart'. – Willeke Jul 26 '16 at 20:26
  • VPN is a good idea for my laptop, but if I'm at a different device, I can't set up a VPN. Well, I hope they invent some new fancy technology soon! – Lotte Jul 27 '16 at 0:26
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    @Willeke With Airbnb for example you don't have a choice, you have to verify your account via SMS. Otherwise I also try to avoid it where possible – Lotte Jul 27 '16 at 0:27

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