Do you use your phone for many activities, like work and personal transactions? If so, you might be worried that your phone number could be compromised.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that in 2021, almost $823 million had been lost to phone calls and text fraud.
Your cell phone number can be sensitive information that scammers can use to steal money from, but you might not have a full grasp yet of how that happens. Still, you want to feel secure and keep your phone number safe from scammers.
We hear you! We’ve looked into official government sources and other authorities and also read real-life stories from victims of cell phone identity theft.
Identity theft is on the rise. Roughly every 10 seconds someone’s identity is stolen to commit fraud, crimes or worse. This can cause difficulties with everything from banking, credit cards, insurance, loans and more, and you might not know about it until it’s too late.
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The world is only becoming more digital. Don’t get left behind on keeping your data safe.
Stick with us until the end so you’ll understand the worst thing that can happen with how much information scammers can get by using your phone number.
Don’t miss out on essential tips to prevent scammers from using your phone number in fraudulent activities. When malicious people get your information, they can use it for crimes like ID theft and fraud.
What can fraudsters do with your phone number?
Most people think their mobile numbers are just a string of digits, but let us walk you through what a stranger can do with your number.
- Collect your information
Scammers can use your mobile number to mine your data through a people search site. Websites like That’s Them, Whitepages, and TruePeopleSearch reveal private information, provided that the person searching for you has one of the following:
- Phone number
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
These search sites buy your information, then sell it to companies and people who want your data.
Did you know that they can access your address, family members’ names and addresses, and any records?
That’s quite scary, to be honest. So it pays to be vigilant and careful all the time.
- Reroute your number
Hackers can also contact your mobile carrier, pretending to be you.
Here’s how this technique happens: scammers reroute your number with the help of your mobile network provider, then they log into your email account.
It doesn’t matter if they don’t know your password because they can request another by clicking “Forgot password?” The email platform will send a reset link or code to the hackers’ phone number.
As a result, they could access your subscriptions and accounts.
- Impersonate you
Like rerouting, a hacker can call your mobile phone provider to request SIM swapping. Here’s how the cyber attack occurs:
- Scammers contact your mobile network provider, claiming to be you.
- They’ll ask them to port out your number to a new SIM card.
- They can provide publicly-available information, such as birth date and address, to confirm your identity.
- They’ll receive messages and phone calls under your name.
Although telecommunication companies send codes for customers to switch devices, some hackers are still successful in this modus operandi.
- Send a texting scam
Have you received messages containing suspicious links? Avoid clicking these URLs because they’re part of texting scams.
Sometimes, they even pretend to be representatives from reputable companies to convince you to open malicious links. When you do, they can infect your gadgets with malware that can steal your data.
Hackers can also lure you into providing confidential information on their websites.
- Spoof your number
A scammer can make it appear that a known company or government agency is calling you.
You may be lured into giving credit card information, bank account details, and other sensitive data. They may use the following scam scripts to offer bold claims:
- I’m calling today to provide you with the opportunity of a lifetime.
- If you don’t do anything, nothing gets done!
- Can you decide to invest today?
You can hang up immediately after hearing these promises or calls to action. Hackers can be quite persuasive, so you must be on guard.
We also recommend blocking the number so they won’t be able to call you again.
- Send you a spyware
Scammers can also send text messages containing spyware to monitor your online transactions. They can collect your data, including credit card details, usernames, and passwords.
Your phone number alone may not be enough to steal your money and identity immediately without you knowing, but it’s a starting point for most thieves and hackers.
Why do you need to protect your mobile number?
Indeed, someone can steal your identity with your phone number. Hackers can receive all your texts and calls, especially from government agencies and banks.
The worst thing that can happen is for them to discover your Social Security Number (SSN), Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), and credit card details.
They can use such information to commit different types of fraud, such as loan fraud, tax identity theft, and unemployment fraud
These are just some examples of fraud they can carry out, so make sure to protect your phone number.
How much information can someone get from a phone number?
If scammers hack your number, they can collect the following data from your mobile number:
- Home address
- Email address
- Credit card information
- Police records
- In-store and online purchases
- Previous and current location
- Family members’ numbers and addresses
Scammers will have an easy job, especially if your phone number is connected to almost all your apps, such as banking, government, and e-commerce stores.
How do scammers get your cell phone number?
The internet has made it easier for hackers to access phone numbers. Here are some ways they can steal your number:
- Buying from black markets
Hackers can purchase phone numbers in bulk from illegal third-party sources. For example, phone numbers of nearly 4 million Clubhouse users were for sale on the dark web.
The Clubhouse is an audio chat app that shows only the phone numbers of its members.
- Generating numbers
One search on the internet will show several websites that operate as phone number generators. It generates mobile numbers that fraudsters can dial to start their scam techniques.
- Web scraping
Since phone numbers are shown on various networking sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, fraudsters use the web scraping method to collect others’ information.
They can utilize bots or custom-coded scripts to extract large volumes of data from websites and apps.
Criminals can also hack companies, as what happened in Oklahoma City Indian Clinic (OKCIC). The data breach affected almost 40,000 people.
The hackers accessed patients’ phone numbers, names, addresses, birthdates, medical information, health insurance policy numbers, and Social Security numbers.
Knowing these methods can help you understand what you’re up against and prevent them from happening.
What to do if a hacker has your mobile number?
According to the Federal Trade Commission, here’s what you can do if a fraudster has access to your number:
- Contact your mobile service provider and inform them of the incident. Ask the specific steps on how you can reclaim your number. If your SIM has a password, change it immediately.
- Review your bank, credit card, and other accounts for unauthorized purchases. If there’s any, file a complaint to the FTC.
- Change all passwords to prevent further prying on your accounts.
It’s important to report to the FTC as soon as possible to lessen the liability you might have due to the hackers’ transactions.
The government agency will also provide a recovery plan and guide you through the entire process.
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How to protect yourself from scammers and hackers?
You can take several precautionary measures so that thieves can’t use your phone number for fraudulent activities, including ID theft.
Here are some of the best tips to protect yourself from fraudsters:
- You shouldn’t give your phone number to a stranger.
- Don’t provide personal information over the phone unless you initiated the conversation.
- Avoid clicking links from spam text messages.
- Delete malicious texts immediately and block the sender.
- Change your privacy setting to “Only Me” or “Private” so the apps or websites won’t publish your phone number.
- Install a virtual private network (VPN) on your phone.
It’s best to combine these measures to ensure maximum protection.
Is it possible to safeguard your phone number from fraudsters?
Yes, you can protect your phone number from malicious people and keep your personal information safe.
It’s especially important because if scammers have access to your number, they can collect your data, reroute your number, impersonate you, send a texting scam, spoof your number, and send spyware.
If you’ve been a victim of this crime, you should immediately report it to the appropriate government agency. They can provide a specific recovery plan for your case.