Scammers want access to the most sensitive data available, like a social security number or credit card. But those are much more heavily protected, so they settle on the next best thing for wreaking havoc — your name and phone number.
Once a hacker, scammer, or cybercriminal gains access to your phone number, they can disrupt your life in untold ways by infiltrating the rest of your sensitive data. Learn more about this terrifying threat and how to prevent falling victim to these faceless villains.
Why do scammers want your phone number?
Think about all the ways you use your phone number. No longer are your digits just for making and taking phone calls or text messages. They connect you to your financial institutions, social media accounts, travel and accommodation bookings, and even access to streaming services.
Because our phone numbers are everywhere, they have become a dangerous tool for scammers and hackers. With your phone number, criminals can impersonate you, commit fraud, gain access to your data and money, and tarnish your reputation.
And these criminals are constantly adapting to changing technologies. They use SIM swapping, DNS cache poisoning, spyware, wardriving, and phishing techniques to obtain, manipulate, and use your data to meet their needs.
How do scammers get your phone number?
As we mentioned, scammers and hackers use various methods to obtain and use your private information. Here are just a handful of ways these criminals get their hands on the data they want:
- Data breaches - When bulk information, like credit card numbers and phone numbers, gets lifted from databases by hackers and sold to other criminals.
- Social media - Social media is a gold mine for criminals because users willingly share details about their lives, allowing scammers to steal with little effort.
- Phishing - Phishing is scams, like emails, texts, or social engineering, used by criminals to trick you into giving up information willingly.
- Unprotected Wi-Fi networks - Public and unprotected Wi-Fi networks make it easy for hackers to infiltrate networks, allowing them to take personal data, like your phone number.
- Malware, adware, and spyware - Malware, adware, and spyware are typically computer viruses that exploit weaknesses in your devices and can provide endless information for hackers, including keystrokes.
- Unverified apps and websites - Hackers can use fake websites, website reroutes, and unverified applications to trick users into stealing information.
- Public information sites - Your name and phone number are public information, which means criminals can people search websites to get phone numbers and even personalize their attacks.
As technology becomes more integrated with our lives, criminals will continue to develop new and nasty ways to find and exploit your personal information.
How to protect your phone number and private data
While it's terrifying to think that almost anyone can gain access to your life with a little effort, there are a few ways to protect yourself. Implement these methods in your life immediately to secure your phone number and private information.
Ignore calls from unknown numbers
A widespread phishing method involves a scammer calling you from an unknown number and using social engineering methods to trick you into giving them what they want. For example, criminals will claim to be from your bank, utility company, or even the IRS.
Ignoring calls from unknown numbers is best to avoid these kinds of tricks and prevent additional calls. Also, scammers rarely leave voicemails, and official matters often have other follow-up methods using official communication channels, like mail letters and emails.
Rein in your social media
Criminals love social media because their victims often share private details without worrying that a predator is lurking. By modifying your privacy settings to allow only friends to view your profile, you can prevent unwanted visitors from seeing your details.
Additionally, being mindful of what you post on your accounts is always a good idea. And whenever possible, never post or share your phone number.
Read terms and conditions and privacy policies
Unfortunately, signing up for almost any service requires you to provide some form of personal information, including phone numbers. However, providers must disclose how they use your information in their terms and conditions and privacy policies.
Although terms and conditions are some of the most boring content on earth, reading these documents is vital for protecting your privacy. Reading the terms and conditions can help you decide if using a product or service is worth the privacy trade-off before committing your data.
Use a password manager
A digital best practice is to use a different and strong password for every website you use. But with the massive number of websites we log into, remembering passwords becomes impractical and dangerous, especially if we resort to using the same password for everything.
That's why using a powerful password manager, such as the one Apple provides for iOS devices, is vital for keeping sensitive information safe. A password manager can help generate unique passwords for every website, and with biometric authentication, they remain secure.
Don't use your phone number to receive multifactor authentication codes
Criminals who use SIM swapping or other techniques to reroute text messages can intercept multifactor authentication communications, which they can then use to gain access to your accounts. Use a unique token or authenticator app to access bank accounts, financial statements, or health documents whenever possible.
Use a VPN
Public and insecure Wi-Fi networks make it easy for hackers to steal your data, especially when you transmit sensitive details like phone numbers, credit card numbers, and addresses. You can add an extra layer of protection by using a VPN.
A VPN encrypts your transmissions, so it's near-impossible to decode the jumble of characters that hides your private info. Even if you use a private, secured network, a VPN is an excellent method of securing your digital activity.
Stop data brokers from profiting off your data with Incogni
While these methods are effective at preventing, they won't do much good if your sensitive details are already spread across the internet unprotected. Fortunately, there is a seamless method of scrubbing your information from the hands of data brokers and scammers.
Incogni continuously sends out opt-out requests on your behalf, removing your information from the data brokers that scammers love. Incogni can even remove your details from people search sites, robbing the crooks of an easy way of stealing your data.
Additionally, Incogni can automatically handle the entire personal information removal process that uses various laws to request the eradication of your private data from broker sites. For a limited time, you can land a 1-year subscription to Incogni's invaluable service for 50% off.
Incogni offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, meaning you no longer have to risk your data or money. Become a nightmare for criminals by making your data nearly impossible to obtain with the help of Incogni.