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Today, the question "how do scammers get my phone number?" is a pertinent one. The practice is so pervasive that there is a decent chance that your next cell phone call may come from a scammer. Your smartphone is, in essence, your hand-held link to the world, making it a significant vulnerability.
Scammers know this and are now taking advantage of daily tasks that seem innocuous, such as text messages, to exploit your personal details for their profit. Scams are now more sophisticated and threatening. At this point, it is worth pointing out that your smartphone has 3 main areas of vulnerability: your phone number, hardware, and software. In this post, you will learn how scammers can get your phone number, how they use their access, and how to avoid scammers.
How Do Scammers Get My Phone Number?
It is scary how much information is attached to your phone number. Once a scammer gets your phone number, they can do a simple search online to establish where you live, your spouse, and much more personal details. There are 3 major ways scammers can get your phone number.
- One of the easiest ways scammers can gain access your phone is through hacked social media accounts and phone numbers associated with those accounts.
- A lot of sensitive information, such as credit card numbers and real phone numbers, is available on the dark web, and sold or traded by scammers
- A number generator or auto-dialer is another method scammers use to get your phone number. The tool provides a way of generating and calling random numbers.
How Can Scammers Use Your Phone Number?
Depending on their motive, scammers can use your cell phone number in several ways. The two common ways criminals tend to target your cell phone number include making robocalls and theft of your phone number.
US consumers in 2018 sought protection from 48 billion robocalls. This is one of the common scam calls when a person purports to be a representative of the Social Security Administration. In such phone calls, the scammer requests your personal information, such as your Social Security Number, claiming that your benefits will cease if the information is not provided.
The best way you can avoid these scam calls is by not answering calls from phone numbers you do not recognize. If you pick a call and realize it is a scammer, just hang up. Also, keep in mind that government agencies such as the IRS and Social Security will never make an impromptu call asking for your private details.
Another thing, you should never pay or provide personal info unless you are the one who initiated the call. If you suspect a scammer stole your personal details, report it to the FTC as identity theft.
Phone Number Theft
Scammers are even stealing phone numbers to facilitate other types of identity theft. This is one of those clever scams where the scammer will call your mobile carrier provider claiming to be you. The aim is to transfer your phone number maliciously.
Once the carrier confirms critical details such as your favorite color, they transfer your phone number to the spammer's device, and you will only notice your SIM card activated when you try to make a call.
Since your phone number is used for two-factor authentication, the scammer can now access your other accounts with your phone number. So, avoid setting obvious security questions to make it harder for scammers to swap your mobile phone number pop.
What Kind of Information Can Scammers Gain Access Through Your Phone Number?
You will be amazed by how much personal information a scammer can unearth using your phone number. It is even scary to think that a scammer with just your cell number can find your full name and address. Not just that, they can also find your previous addresses, details on evictions, reveal financial information, date of birth, and neighborhood map.
As if that is not enough, a quick search online using your phone number can reveal if you have had a speeding ticket. It is alarmingly easy to reveal personal information using a cell phone number, including criminal records. In the wrong hands, your phone number can pose a huge security risk to your identity.
Scammers Can Use Your Phone Number for Different Purposes
With the rate at which data breaches occur, there is a good chance that your cell number is on the dark web already. Today, scammers use phones to carry out various scams and defraud people of their hard-earned money.
Like anyone with a cell phone, your phone number is intrinsically connected to your identity. This is why scammers look for your phone number to serve their purposes. Some of the popular purposes include:
- Data mining
- Reroute your number
- SIM card swapping
- Texting scam
One of the easiest ways scammers can maliciously use your phone number is by using it on a people search site. Apart from providing personal details, some of these sites can show your family members' names. All this will be available in a matter of seconds.
The people search sites purchase personal info and sell it to individuals who want your data, including scammers. Such sites provide valuable information in blackmail, identity theft, or stalking.
Reroute Your Number
After knowing your phone number, a scammer can call your service provider pretending to be you to reroute your number. After making sure that your number routes to another phone, the scammer can then access your email account, bank account, and virtually any other account connected to your phone number. Many service providers put security features in place to prevent scammers or fraudsters from switching phones even if they have your number.
SIM card swapping
SIM swapping, also known as SIM jacking, allows a scammer to access your phone number. The scammer exploits your mobile carrier's porting feature. This feature protects your data whenever you change carriers. That said, scammers can exploit the feature to own your number using a new SIM card.
Scammers use spoofing to make phone numbers pop up with caller IDs known to you, when in reality, they are the ones making the call.
For instance, a scammer can spoof your friend's number so that whenever the scammer calls, you think it is your friend calling. Spoofing aims to trick you into answering the phone. Once a scammer uses this technique, it becomes easier to trick you into any scheme, such as requesting your credit card information.
It may surprise you, but it takes very little to spoof phone numbers. Today, scammers can easily make a call using platforms that make it possible to spoof numbers using a virtual number. It is one of the easiest and most appealing methods for scammers.
Another purpose scammers have your phone number is to send malicious texts. Some scammers may use SMS systems to send links in a text message. These links aim to install malware on your smartphone so that the scammer can access personal information.
A scammer may send a malicious reset link to your bank account password. Alternatively, the scammer may wish to scam you by pretending that they are your doctor or bank. By posing as somebody you trust, scammers attempt to trick you into providing them with sensitive details.
Scammers Can Spy on Your Phone, Using Just Your Phone Number
Unlike in the past, scammers today can cause much harm with just your cell number. Smartphones being more than just address books makes it possible for scammers to spy on many details from just having your phone number. Scammers can spy on your email account and password, bank accounts, and sensitive medical records.
Best Ways to Detect Scam Calls and SMS
Phone scams take different forms and shapes. However, they all tend to share the same threats, promises, or requests for you to make payment in certain ways. Here are some of the ways you can recognize a phone scam.
- Scammer calling to tell you have won a lottery or were "selected" to receive a special prize. However, if they request payment before you can receive your prize, you should know that there is no prize.
- Scammers claiming to be federal agencies or law enforcement. They threaten you with arrest, deportation, or a fine to scam you. This scam aims to make you pay out of fear. However, federal agencies or law enforcement agencies never call to threaten you or ask for money on the phone.
- Scammers requesting payments in ways that are hard to recover. For instance, a scammer will ask you to wire money, use money transfer apps, or put funds on gift cards. So, look out for anyone who requests you to make a payment using these methods.
Actions You Need to Take When You Realize Your Phone Number Is Being Used by Scammers
To keep scammers at bay, there are several actions you can take to protect yourself from becoming a victim of phone scam calls.
Just Hang up
Scammers are known to be persistent when they feel they have a possible target. One way to protect yourself from their efforts is to simply hang up the phone once you realize you are talking to a scammer.
Consider Call Labeling or Call Blocking
Even if your phone number is on the National Do Not Call Registry, there are tools scammers use to bypass it. So, the best defense you have against unsolicited calls is blocking them.
Do Not Trust the Caller ID
As pointed out earlier, scammers can make any number or name appear as the caller ID. So you should not trust the caller ID before establishing it is somebody you actually know or an actual government agency.
Can Scammers See Your Cell Phone Number?
Yes. The truth is that scammers today are bolder and much more sophisticated than ever before. New technologies provide them with various ways of accessing phone numbers. What's more, with so many details available in public records and increased data breaches, tech-savvy scammers can see phone numbers.
The Best Solutions to Get Rid of Phone Calls Scammers
Although you may not be able to completely protect your phone from receiving scam calls, it is always good to remain vigilant. This is especially true when receiving calls from unknown numbers.
One of the best ways to prevent scammers from calling you is by registering your phone numbers in the Do Not Call List. Also, you can contact your phone carrier for their services in battling against scammers. Another way you can protect yourself is by using third-party call-blocking apps. Using such applications can decrease the number of spam calls on your phone.