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How to Receive SMS Passcodes Abroad

Although I've lived overseas in Japan for some time now, I still maintain a "presence" of sorts in my USA homeland in the form of bank accounts, credit cards, Paypal, etc.  The Internet with its access-anywhere convenience makes this reasonably easy; however, I smacked into a challenge when seeking to boost the security of my online financial accounts.  My ultimate goal was to setup multi-factor authentication wherever possible--a feature supported by most major online services, especially the money-related ones.

Some sites use handy token apps like "Google Authenticator" to provide the second authentication factor, but most I found use SMS--messaging the one-time password (OTP) to your phone upon login.  The problem I have is that sites like Paypal require a USA phone number to send the SMS to.  But I don't have a USA phone number because I live abroad.  Am I forever doomed to answer recycled personal questions when logging in?

First I tried Skype because they offer USA and other overseas phone numbers that can be forwarded to your Skype account or phone.  Voice calls worked OK, but SMS did not.  No good.

Next I tried Voxox, one of few other VoIP services besides Skype that offer USA phone numbers.  SMS worked!  But my celebrations were premature.  Services like Paypal send their authentication SMS messages using something called short-code SMS (aka "shortcodes"), and Voxox does not support shortcodes: https://getsatisfaction.com/voxox/topics/can_voxox_receive_shortcodes.  I feared my mission would end in utter failure, but I trudged onward through treacherous Internet VoIP research jungles.

Paydirt--good fortune rained upon desperate and bloody security-conscious me.  I found a VoIP provider called Anveo that offers USA and other overseas phone numbers that can receive SMS shortcodes.  I "bought" the USA phone number of my choosing, then configured it to forward to my Japan mobile phone.  I sent a personal SMS.  Got it.  Next the true test...will I receive that Paypal passcode SMS?  I held my breath as I nervously clicked through Paypal's security controls.  PROFIT!  Enhanced security enabled, dude!

Amazing.  They do what Skype and Voxox cannot.  Of course Anveo is a paid VoIP service, but the cost is very affordable.  In fact it's less expensive than the big-boy Skype.  The only downside I found is that Anveo's website is geared towards the technology-minded.  This proves advantageous for an IT guy like me, but could be a bit overwhelming for non-techie users.

If you found this article useful and do plan on using Anveo's services, please enter my referral code: 7317773

This helps support this site and my ongoing blogging efforts.  Best of luck to you, fellow foreigner!

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  • Guest - Nathan

    Hey, I made an account there (using your reference number) and I was wondering if you knew if they allowed you to change the rate plan of a phone number you purchase. For example, can you order the phone number on a per minute plan, and at a later date upgrade it to the personal plan? And if that is possible, would you have to pay the set up fee for the upgraded plan?

  • Guest - Mondaiji

    Guest - Nathan

    I'm sorry, but I don't know.