We often give our numbers out like it’s no-big-deal. But think again. Your cellphone number is a path to your personal information.
The value of your cellphone number
Think about how often you enter your number on an app or online account. Many of the apps we use every day ask for our cellphone numbers as a means of verification. And social network profiles have it too. But this comes with potential consequences.
With only your cellphone number, companies can (easily) find out about your shopping habits, what you watch on TV and can predict what you’ll buy or look at online.
Former high-tech crime agent for the F.B.I., Edward M. Stroz, said your cellphone number is “kind of a key into the room of your life and information about you.”
Because your cellphone number is connected to numerous databases and is a device you always have on you, investigators say it’s “often even more useful than a Social Security number.”
A cellphone-only life
Today, “nearly half” of households in America have switched from traditional landlines to a mobile phone service. The rate at which people are having a cellphone-only life is increasing exponentially.
And while companies are required by law to keep Social Security numbers private, cellphone numbers aren’t legally regulated. So, whenever you give your number out, you’re increasing the risk of someone having access to your personal information.
As our dependency on our cellphones increases, so should our awareness of how our numbers are used and regulated.
Know what’s “out there” about you
Your cellphone number is likely linked to social networks and other online accounts. By doing a self-check with a service like BeenVerified, you can see where your number is linked to. Many of us might have old profiles we abandoned or accounts we signed up for and left.
That personal information may just be sitting online, unknown to you, but accessible to anyone.
Try finding the social accounts or online memberships you aren’t using or have abandoned (think MySpace), or places online where you’ve entered your cellphone number. Then sort out which accounts you can delete.
We forget sometimes that the Internet does not forget. But by monitoring what information is out there about you, you can have more control over the protection of your personal information.
And don’t give your cellphone number out so easily.