Having access to your phone number shouldn’t be a priority.
Your 10-digit string has likely followed you across the internet and around the world for years. Since then, you’ve probably given it out – willingly or not – to everyone who asked, including restaurants, social media platforms, and online stores. The problem is that. A number like that can unravel the entirety of your digital life, ruining your privacy, bank account, or even your identity, for someone with the right motivation.
However, that doesn’t have to be the case.
Getting and maintaining a second Secret Phone Number can help mitigate the risks associated with treating your phone number as both a public identifier and a secret key.
The process doesn’t need to be complicated as long as you’re diligent about it. It is unfortunate that this partial solution is only a Band-Aid for a system that is broken, said Jon Callas, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s director of technology projects.
However, bandages often work well when it comes to healing wounds.
Security for you
When the wrong people have access to your phone number, it can be very dangerous.
The chances are that your cellphone number is tied to any modern online service you use, from email to online banking to cryptocurrency exchanges. Many accounts require phone numbers to reset forgotten passwords when passwords are forgotten.
An account holder’s phone number is the key to his or her online account, not the password.
There have been numerous instances when this has been abused. The hacker can take all the cryptocurrency from the victim’s phone by SIM swapping it with a SIM card of the hacker’s choice. SIM swapping is as easy as calling the mobile phone carrier and convincing them to port the target’s number to the hacker’s SIM card. The easiest way to access someone’s voicemail is to gain access to their online accounts, which is easier than you might think.
Using just your phone number, a troublemaker can find out all kinds of presumably non-public details about your life (such as where you lived and who your family members are) using Whitepages Premium. You may need to answer a few questions in order to recover your password.
Nonetheless, hackers need your phone number linked to your most sensitive online accounts in order to target you specifically for this type of attack. The bad guys are relatively easy to figure out your number thanks to hacks, data breaches, and leaks happening every day.
In the case of phone numbers, it doesn’t matter whether the data hackers get is years old.
As Callas put it, “Your area code in the U.S. indicates where you were when you got your own phone.” People’s unwillingness to change their phone numbers is what makes phone numbers a privacy issue.”
That’s why it’s handy to have a second, secret phone number.
You can drastically reduce the risk of targeted phone-based hacking attacks by maintaining a separate phone line that is linked exclusively to your most important accounts like your bank and primary email.
SEE ALSO: How to Edit an iMessage in Apple iOS 16
Privacy is important to you
How long has it been since you changed your phone number? Like many people, it may have been a while since you last checked in. When it comes to your privacy, that can have real consequences.
Various companies purchase, share, or otherwise obtain people’s phone numbers as a matter of course, and not just their customers. While you might not recognize names like Spy Dialer Inc., Acxiom LLC, or Applecart, those companies are likely to recognize yours. Those free phone numbers are then dispersed further afield by data brokers, which in turn accumulate more and more associated information about their owners.
They’re also extremely difficult to change.
There is nothing more Herculean than changing your phone number.”
Due to all the places your phone number goes as a human being, changing your phone number is truly a Herculean task.
As Callas points out, your number is not only used by doctors’ offices and banks.
When you signed up for a frequent shopper card at a liquor store, did you give your phone number? How about when searching for a vegan restaurant’s waitlist or purchasing ammunition? Scores of invisible companies are now purchasing and selling these valuable data points, which collectively give an incomplete picture of your life that may come back to haunt you.
According to Callas, the advertising industry creates databases and profiles based on things such as phone numbers, locations, and even combining them.
People often mistake this practice for another type of invasive monitoring since this practice allows marketers to draw scarily accurate conclusions.
It is quite possible that you are giving out your contact information to shady marketing companies without realizing it.
This can be combated by using a second phone number in a manner that is different from what is described in the preceding section of this article about password resets.
A “junk number” is a number that’s not tied to your real name in this privacy-focused scenario. You can think of it as a second email address – a place you sign up for memberships and discounts. You don’t have to worry about whether the company that sells it gets hacked since you have a second, throwaway number at your disposal.
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