Your Old Phone Number Is a Hacker’s Dream Why Giving Up Your Phone Number Can Mean Giving Up Your Privacy Too

phone number privacy too

Did You Know That Your Old Phone Number Is Recycled & Reused? 

Surrendering your phone number can be more problematic than losing your phone. If you’ve changed your phone number, then you may have created a security and privacy risk for yourself. Your phone number helps you confirm your identity, proving that you are who you say you are. Social media, email and banking accounts use your phone number as a two-factor verification process, sending you a temporary password via text to confirm your identity. This allows you to get into your account as well as update or change your username and password. But did you know that your old phone number is recycled, and once you cancel that number for a new one, it goes back to a pool of available numbers? It could take up to months or even years before someone gets assigned that number. Have you ever wondered what happens when it does get assigned to a stranger? 

Most of us don’t know that giving up our phone numbers means a lot more than just canceling them. You need to find every business, person, and entity that links your phone number to your finances, medical records/doctor’s offices, email and social media accounts, business contacts, and much more. If you fail to do so, your life can become an open book for whoever gets assigned your old phone number. 

This means that a stranger could be receiving texts, photos and voicemails that are intended for you. And even worse, they could receive those important and required temporary passcodes that you need to log into your secure accounts. Two-factor verification processes have become a common and necessary step required from a number of platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tiktok, online banking and much more. And although the two-step verification process helps your accounts from getting hacked, they can be great for those who have access to the phone number linked to all of your accounts. 

Ultimately, this makes your phone number a gateway for anybody who has access to it to hijack your accounts one by one and trick automated systems while kicking you out of your accounts for good. And that’s not it. People can do a lot of harm with just your phone number. In this blog, we’ll get into everything you need to know about old phone numbers and what people can do with them once they’re assigned to them. We’ll also discuss what you can do to prevent such a situation from happening to you while taking the necessary steps to ensure your safety and confidentiality. So let’s get into it!     

Phone number hijacked

If It Can Happen To Anybody, It Can Happen To You Too

Getting your old phone number hijacked isn’t the kind of thing you typically worry about. In fact, it’s the kind of thing you don’t think will ever happen to you – until it does. And it just recently happened to me. I had no idea it was even possible. I changed my phone number when I moved to the United States a year ago. Which means that it took a year for someone to get assigned my old phone number. 

First, my Tik Tok account got hacked. The person had reassigned my old phone number which was linked to the account. Thanks to the two-factor verification process, the stranger was able to trick the system and pretend they were me. Within no time, my email and password had been changed and I was locked out of my account. The person proceeded to pretend to be me, posted content, commented on other people’s posts, and even chatted with my friends. As I observed the content that was being posted daily from a new profile I had created, I noticed the hijacker was a younger teenage girl. No older than thirteen or fourteen. She wasn’t a scammer – she was a teenage girl enjoying the thrill of pretending to be a twenty-three-year-old with over nine thousand followers and tons of likes. 

This goes to show that your phone number doesn’t necessarily have to fall into the hands of a scammer or criminal for your accounts to be jeopardized. Teenagers can also be the culprits. Thankfully, I had updated my new phone number to my bank account, my Venmo, and my doctor’s office. But what if I hadn’t? It’s a problem that happens all too often and it’s becoming too easy for strangers to get into what is not theirs and take advantage of it.

Old phone number hacked

What Can a Hacker Do With Your Old Phone Number? 

I used to think that maybe, at most, a person could find my name and address with my phone number. And I thought that when I canceled a phone number for a new one, it would be gone and disconnected forever. But number recycling is a regulated industry practice that helps maintain consistent availability for phone numbers as people switch phone numbers all the time. And it’s important to know that switching phone numbers opens the door to harassment and privacy abuse issues. According to a study from  Vice, there are several attacks that people can accomplish when becoming the new owner to your old phone number. These attacks include phishing attacks and account takeovers. They are the most common attacks and can cause the most harm. For a phishing attack, a person could use your phone number to scam others and send spam texts. The annoying texts with links encouraging you to click on them are the ones I’m talking about. Those are phishing attacks, and they are more common than you may think. And account takeovers consist of taking advantage of the two-step verification process I mentioned earlier. It’s exactly what has happened to me recently. 

Another study from Gizmodo observed that nineteen out of two hundred numbers were still receiving security and privacy orientated calls and messages, such as authentication passwords and prescription refill reminders and notifications. 

How To Keep Your Privacy Safe

When you change your phone number, the first and most important thing you’ll want to do is make sure you update your new phone number to all of your online accounts. From online banks to medical records, email and social media accounts. It may be time consuming, but it will save you a lot of time and stress from facing the true consequences of what can happen if a stranger has access to your accounts. 

Another thing you can do after making sure you have updated your phone number everywhere is keep it as private as possible. In a previous blog, I discussed the true reasons why you should keep your phone number private, and tips on how to do so. And FOUND ME can help you with that. FOUND ME is a company that strives to help people reunite with lost belongings, from laptops and keys to pets and even people. With bracelets and necklaces a QR code can automatically connect you and the scanner. FOUND ME helps keep your information private. Instead of having to write your number down everywhere, like on luggage tags and dog collars, FOUND ME will protect it. 

To learn more about FOUND ME and everything it has to offer, visit https://foundme.com.  

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