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10 Risks of Giving Out Your Cell Phone Number

Your phone number may seem like an ordinary sequence of digits, but it‘s closely linked with your sensitive personal data. Fraudsters are constantly finding new ways to exploit cell phone numbers to run scams and steal identities. By freely giving out your number, you could open yourself up to many threats.

According to a 2022 Federal Trade Commission report, phone scams have skyrocketed in recent years, with losses to fraud exceeding $1.8 billion. It‘s never been more important to be cautious about sharing your mobile number.

In this comprehensive guide from the online privacy experts at , we‘ll outline the top 10 risks of putting your cell phone number in the wrong hands. We‘ll also provide tips to keep your number secure, what to do if your number is compromised, and key takeaways to protect your mobile accounts.

When Should You Share Your Cell Number?

First, it helps to understand when it is and isn‘t appropriate to provide your mobile number. There are certainly situations where giving out your cell phone number is unavoidable or expected, such as:

  • With your doctors, dentists, optometrists, and other healthcare providers
  • On applications for jobs, schools, housing, government aid
  • With utility companies, banks, insurance companies
  • To relatives, close friends, and people you date

However, you‘ll want to avoid openly sharing your cell number:

  • On social media profiles the public can view
  • In online forums, chat rooms, or text groups
  • To retail stores where it‘s not required
  • In response to suspicious texts or emails from strangers
  • On forms or documents that seem unsecured

Having your mobile number listed publicly online or falling into the wrong hands can open you up to endless headaches. Here‘s an overview of the top 10 potential risks:

10 Cell Phone Number Scams and Risks

1. Increase in Robocalls

Robocalls take advantage of autodialers and prerecorded messages to spam consumers‘ phones endlessly. According to YouMail‘s Robocall Index, over 4.4 billion robocalls were placed to US phone numbers in March 2022 alone.

Once your cell number ends up on an auto-dialing list, you‘ll notice a surge of unwanted robocalls from unfamiliar numbers. Some continuously call you to try selling services, others to scam you into paying non-existent bills. It‘s annoying at best and dangerous at worst.

2. Smishing Attacks

Smishing refers to phishing attempts sent through text message rather than email. According to a Forrester Research report, more than 80% of US adults have received smishing texts.

The scam texts often pretend to be from banks, online accounts, retailers, or delivery companies. They may claim you have a gift waiting, an unpaid bill, or an issue with your account. Smishing links can install malware or direct you to forms capturing your logins and financial details.

3. Increased SIM Swapping Risk

With a SIM swap attack, scammers social engineer customer service reps at your wireless carrier to port your number onto their device. As Symantec security experts explain, this gives fraudsters full control over your incoming calls and texts.

The bad actors can then reset the passwords for your online accounts using two-factor authentication powered by your cell number. Once SIM swapped, they have access to your contacts and personal data as well. Victims often don‘t realize their number was ported until it‘s too late.

4. Potential for Doxing

Doxing refers to the unauthorized releasing of someone‘s personal information online, usually with malicious intent. As warns, doxing can include details like your phone number, home address, workplace, financial accounts, and more.

People‘s motives for doxing range from personal vendettas to extortion schemes. Regardless, it can enable stalking, reputational damage, and identity theft. Limiting who can access your mobile number helps reduce your doxing risks.

5. Increased Identity Theft

Identity thieves are eager to get their hands on consumer phone numbers, which provide the keys to access financial accounts, commit fraud, and steal identities. As Javelin Strategy estimates, identity fraud affected nearly 10% of US adults in 2020.

Criminals can use your cell number to reset the passwords on your online accounts or bypass authentication steps. In some cases, all a scammer needs to open fraudulent accounts in your name or make unauthorized purchases is access to your mobile number.

6. Potential for Blackmail

Crooks may threaten to publicly release sensitive photos, videos, emails, DMs, or other personal information about you unless you meet their demands. According to Interpol, sextortion and blackmail scams have been rising in recent years.

By having your phone number, fraudsters have a direct line to send harassing demands and threats your way. To limit blackmail risks, be extremely selective about who you provide your mobile number to and what you share over text/SMS.

7. Scamming Your Contacts

When scammers infiltrate your phone number, they gain direct access to everyone in your contacts list as well. As the FTC advises, fraudsters may text or call your friends and family pretending to be you, usually with urgent pleas for help.

For example, they may claim you were mugged or in an accident and need money wired immediately. Or insist you accidentally sent funds to the wrong place and need the payment returned. This tricks your contacts into sending money to the criminals instead.

8. Increased Stalking and Privacy Concerns

Phone numbers can potentially be traced back to locate your general address and movements without consent. Stalkers can exploit this to determine your address, place of work, where you travel, and more.

Even some legitimate smartphone apps request access to your contacts and phone number as part of their terms of use. This still poses risks of your data being collected or shared without your complete understanding.

9. Greater Risk of Account Hacks

As per an FTC analysis, cell phone numbers were the most common piece of information used by scammers to access and takeover consumer online accounts.

Many major sites and apps like Facebook, Gmail, Venmo, and Coinbase enable password resets via text messages to your mobile number. Armed with your phone number, fraudsters can compromise your accounts and any financial or personal data contained within.

10. Reputational Harm

Unfortunately, the more your phone number spreads online or gets added to robocall lists, the more some may see calls from your number as disruptive or unwanted. Even if you‘re not actively scamming others, your reputation can still suffer.

Strangers who receive frequent robocalls spoofing your number may block your calls. Businesses may assume you irresponsibly make your number publicly available if it‘s involved in scams. Guard your mobile number carefully to avoid this.

What to Do If Your Number is Compromised

If you believe your mobile number has fallen prey to fraudsters, taking quick action is crucial to prevent further damages. Here are important steps to take right away if your phone number security is at risk:

  • Contact your mobile provider – Alert them to the potential breach, fraud activity, or signs your number was ported. Add extra security safeguards to your account, and request a new phone number if needed.

  • Change passwords and enable two-factor authentication – Reset all passwords for online accounts associated with your number. Rely on an authenticator app rather than mobile texts for two-factor login verification.

  • Place fraud alerts and credit freezes – Fraud alerts flag your credit reports for any new accounts opened without your permission. Freezes restrict access to your credit reports to defend against identity theft.

  • Remove your number from public people search sites – Use a privacy service like DeleteMe to submit opt-out requests to major data brokers publishing your mobile number.

  • Warn contacts – Let family and friends know about potential scams using your compromised number. Have them take extra precautions with calls/texts from your number.

  • Sign up for identity theft protection – Services like LifeLock and IdentityForce provide monitoring to alert you about fraudulent use of your personal information, including your cell number.

How Can You Better Protect Your Phone Number?

Beyond damage control after your mobile number is misused, you‘ll want to take proactive measures to keep it safe in the first place:

  • Avoid oversharing it online or with strangers – Only give your number when absolutely required, rather than freely handing it out. Don‘t post it publicly on social media.

  • Use prepaid cards when possible – Temporary virtual numbers from apps like Google Voice add a layer between your real mobile number and potential scams.

  • Limit use for two-factor authentication – Opt for authenticator apps rather than SMS texts for two-factor logins when available.

  • Screen incoming communications – Don‘t answer or click links in calls/texts from unverified numbers. Manually login to any accounts claiming issues.

  • See what data brokers know about you – Frequently search your name on sites like Spokeo and MyLife to identify any unwanted publication of your mobile number.

Key Takeaways on Cell Phone Number Privacy

Your mobile number contains immense amounts of personal data and access to your digital life. Failing to protect it can open you up to endless forms of fraud. To recap, be mindful of these tips:

  • Avoid openly sharing your phone number online or with strangers when possible
  • Use prepaid virtual numbers or Google Voice to obscure your real number
  • Enable two-factor authentication through verification apps rather than SMS
  • Change passwords immediately if your number is at risk
  • Sign up for fraud alerts, credit freezes, and identity theft monitoring
  • Regularly check people search sites to identify any unwanted exposure of your number

With scamming on the rise, treat your mobile number as carefully as you would your Social Security card or banking details. Following these precautions will help shield your number from misuse.


Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.