Hackers are stealing phone numbers. Are you safe?
From a young age, we all become extremely aware that we should keep our SIN number and bank card information safe and not reveal them to anyone except our employees and the ones closest to us. Nowadays, however, there is a new set of sensitive digits that we have to protect – our phone number. Your phone number is often used as a point of verification for some of your most sensitive accounts, including your bank account or emails which may hold a lot of sensitive information about you or your loved ones.
How Do Hackers Steal Phone Numbers?
This process is actually a lot less elaborate than you think. Chances are your phone number may be floating around somewhere on the internet. It might be on your website, your social media profile, or even from a phone bill in the garbage.
Once the hacker has a hold of your phone number they are able to call the carrier to begin impersonating you. Already armed with additional information they have collected using most likely the same sources where they found your phone numbers, such as your birth date or address, they are able to answer the correct phone numbers and convince you cell phone carrier to “port-out” the number to a different carrier or SIM card.
Once they have gone this far, they usually begin resetting all your accounts, stealing your bank account information (or cryptocurrency if you have any), SIN number and trying to get any additional information that they can use to further invade your privacy and steal your data. The results may be devastating and you may not be able to get your accounts or phone number back. “But how do I protect my phone number when I have to give it out to so many people”, you ask? Let’s look at some of the most effective ways to keep your phone number from being hijacked.
Ways To Keep Your Phone Number Secure
Fortunately, there are a number of preventative measures you can implement to reduce the risk of this happening and perhaps eliminate it altogether. Although you might get lucky enough for just one of these to work, we recommend using all of them combined for the most impactful effect.
Institute a passcode on the account.
Phone carriers are aware of this crime and are taking various measures to ensure that their customers are protected. This is one of the reasons that most mobile phone carriers now request their customers to create a PIN. If you do not have a PIN on your account, we recommend you call your cell phone provider and make sure you have one in place so that it is requested every time you need to access your account to make any changes.
Prevent your information being stolen in the first place
Phone hijacking often happens via phishing attacks. Do not click on suspicious links in your emails. Malware embedded in links can be secretly downloaded on your device if you do. This will give the hacker all the information needed to proceed with hijacking your phone.
Do not use the same usernames and especially passwords across several websites. This makes it easier for the hacker to get a hold of your information and to get into more of your accounts and a faster rate. Make your passwords are long and complex, and are difficult to guess so that they have to at least build up a sweat in order to get your prized possession – your personal information.
Secure your digits
Do not publish your phone number on your public social media profiles and if you have a website, use a form instead of putting your personal phone number. This is one of the easiest ways for hackers to get your information. They often build scrapers that scour the web similar to a search engine and get any phone numbers from social profiles such as LinkedIn or Instagram which provide them with a library of their next targets.
Don’t let anyone know about your cryptocurrency
Be discreet about mentioning cryptocurrency on social media. Cryptocurrency is the easiest target for this type of crime, which makes it extremely sought-after. But don’t think you are safe from this type of attack just because you don’t have any cryptocurrency, plenty of other people get their phone number hijacked as well.
If someone has already stolen your phone number, you may be able to stop this attack in its early stage before it spreads any further. If your phone receives “no signal” or says, “Emergency calls only,” even after restarting the phone, then use another phone to call your provider and have them check the status of your account immediately.
Review your credit card bills, bank statements, phone bills, and other sensitive account information constantly. If you notice any discrepancy or something that doesn’t add up, report it immediately to stop it dead at its tracks. This measure is recommended for any cybersecurity threat and is highly recommended to keep you protected overall.
Your phone number is an important part of your life. Along with email, it is not only a way to communicate at work and home, but also a ‘key’ that you likely use to unlock personal and valuable information. Hackers are getting better, and more desperate, so taking these few precautions will help ensure that the information stays out of their reach.
For more information about protecting your phone, have a look at our post about securing your cellphone.
We hope you found this information useful and that you check our blog once in a while to see additional news and tips about the latest cybersecurity threats.