Experts say to protect your cell phone number because criminals want it

Experts say hackers want your cell phone number, so protect it

In this digital age, the words identity theft. data breach, and hackers have all become household words.

When you hear these words, perhaps your social security number comes to mind.

It turns out those nine digits may not be the only numbers that could land you in some serious hot water.

"Cell phone numbers are kind of the gateway to other forms of information," said Prof. Matt Hale, a cyber security instructor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. "When combined of other forms of information can be used in a number of ways against you."

He says like your social security number, you should protect your mobile number too.

"It's certainly not as private as a social security number, there's a functional use to it as well," said Hale. "You give it out so people can contact you. So it can't, by definition, be entirely secret, but you certainly don't want to be promoting it in a wider internet context out of say the network of friends your associated with."

He says passing off your phone number to the wrong person could lead to some very bad things.

"If an attacker has your number, they can send you malicious text messages," he said. "They can try to call you and get you to reveal information about yourself that they then might use in combination with your phone number and in combination with other types of information they already have."

Someone who knows about this is Debbie Tewhill.

18 months ago, her number somehow got passed off to the wrong person, and eventually ended up on a list.

Now she gets inundated with calls, sometimes 15 calls a day, all from the same number.

She says it's more of an annoyance than anything else, but Tewhill says it makes her think twice.

"I guess back in the day when we just had phone books, nobody could get a lot of information from you in that regard, but now being able to look things up with your phone number, whether they can find out other sensitive information, I'm not sure, so I'm more leery and concerned about giving my phone number out to anyone anymore," said Tewhill.

It turns out with just a cell phone number and google, you can find out a lot.

It's all the reason professor Hale says to keep your mobile number close to the vest.

"If anyone asks for your number, you should be weary and ask yourself who is this person, why should they know that?"

Hale has some tips he says you should consider:

  • Give out your business telephone number before your cell phone number.
  • Be careful if you have a business card and what mobile number you list on it.
  • Tell others who already have your cell phone number to check with you before they give it out.

"Attackers are clever," said Hale. "They'll target someone in your institution who may have your cell phone number, so you may not even give it out directly yourself."

He says if you're careful, and think of your cell phone number as something you need to protect, you'll keep yourself one step ahead of the bad guys.

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