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Phone Number Hacks: 5 Ways to Protect Yourself

September 7, 2020

As harmless as you may think it is, giving out your phone number is one of the easiest ways to compromise your online security.

It’s common knowledge that giving out information online is dangerous. As technology advances, so do the tactics of the hackers, and they adapt to the new cracks in our security. One of these cracks has become our cell phone number, which we willingly give out almost everyday. This can lead to many types of disastrous phone number hacks, like a port-out scam.

Phone Number Hacks

We give our phone numbers to hundreds of sites and businesses throughout our lives. We don’t even realize the danger this could put us in if those numbers were to end up with the wrong person.

Our cell phones have become tied to our daily lives. Hackers can easily find out immense levels of information about our whole lives. They can find out information such as names, addresses, birth dates, and the names of family members. With all this information readily available for them, they can use it to try and hit more serious targets. Hackers could use this information to compromise the security of your accounts.

phone number hacks give access to personal information

Port-Out Scams

A popular way hackers can access many of your accounts with your phone number is with something called a “port-out scam”. To do this, they call your carrier and ask to change the location of your phone number to another SIM card. By doing so they now receive every message and call to your number. Backup security that may keep them from switching the locations can be easily bypassed if they have basic information.

Now think of all the websites and accounts you have set up to send a password reset  code to your phone number. The hacker would be able to change your password for all these sites and have complete control over them through this phone number hack.

how hackers carry out phone number hacks like port-out scams

An employee at TechCrunch, John Biggs, faced this exact situation when a hacker used a “port-out scam” to access his account. He wrote in his article how within minutes all the passwords for his accounts were changed.

The hacker also messaged Biggs’ friends to ask for money with a story he made up using details from Biggs’ account. If Biggs’ friends and family had believed the hacker's story, this phone number hack could’ve done a lot more damage. Biggs was able to reclaim his account within 30 minutes, but the hacker did a lot of damage in that short time.

The risks of a phone number hack

When a hacker steals your information, it does not only expose you to a data breach. It can expose your employers to a breach as well. With your phone number a hacker could switch the password to your email account and gain control of it.

Recently fired employees could also use their access to the company to hack into it. This article describes some ways to avoid this breach, by removing their access to many systems, including company phones. Through this breach they could find many documents that could expose private data from your employer to the hacker. Hackers could then sell this information to the highest bidder.

Hackers might also target your friends and family. They may come up with some fake story to convince your contacts to send them money or personal information.

With your phone number, a hacker can attempt to breach any private information that you have in any accounts. The ease with which they can find phone numbers makes it pretty simple for them to do. A simple phone number hack can put you, your friends and family, and even your employer at risk of a data breach.

Ways to protect yourself

As scary as this all sounds, there are ways to prevent a hacker from getting into your account in the first place. Many major cell carriers allow you to set up a secondary password on your account. If you were to ever want to make any changes in your account it's another level of security to confirm it's you.

Another option is to call customer service to set up a secondary password or pin for your account. A secondary password can make it harder for a hacker to “port out” your number. Without being able to do that, they have almost no ability to take over your accounts through a port-out scam.

Although this does add another layer of security to your accounts, it can't protect you entirely. The easiest way to prevent someone hacking you is to keep them from getting your number in the first place. While never giving out your number is not an option for most people, being selective about where you give it to is a safe alternative.

Giving out your number

Giving your phone number to companies or websites is extremely common now, and that can put us at high levels of risk. By being selective about where you give your phone number out, you can protect yourself from hackers.

For example, giving your number to websites or apps. These places may seem safe, but it increases your chances of your number being found somewhere online for sale. Hackers can find a phone number, and use sites like WhitePages Premium to find basic information from your number.

An easy way to avoid this in the first place is to not give your phone number to any sites or apps that you don't completely trust.  Never giving out your number is not possible for everyone, but it’s also not necessary. Certain establishments, like your bank, can be trusted with private information, such as your number. But even if a larger company seems trustworthy, you should always stay vigilant. Make sure to question the pros and cons of giving your phone number out each time.

Secondary numbers

Companies may ask for your number for two-factor authentication or as a way to retrieve a lost password. While this may seem to be a necessary step in securing your account, there are other ways of taking these steps. Some companies might have a secondary app that generates codes for two-factor authentication.

second phone number apps

Creating a second phone number all together to share with untrustworthy sites is another option to protect from phone number hacks.

When it comes to creating a second phone number, there are a few great options.

  • Burner
  • Hushed
  • Sideline
  • Google Voice

All these apps function similarly. They each create a new number for you and any calls or texts to that number go through the app. Your real phone number is completely separate and hidden from anyone you give the second number to.

This privacy ultimately protects you from port-out scams, among other types of phone number hacks. Check out this link to find detailed information on these apps and others.

Conclusion

Technological advancements now allow hackers to get basic information about people through their phone numbers. But taking certain steps can decrease your risk of being hacked.

  • Keep your number as private as possible
  • Set up a secondary password with your carrier
  • Use a different number on questionable sites

These are all great ways to decrease your chance of being hacked through your phone number. The only surefire way though, is to keep your number completely private.

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