You should stop giving out your phone number

We give this out every day.  It gives us coffee loyalty points or fuel discounts.  Our phone number is an authenticator, an identifier, a location tool.  It’s almost as important as your Social Security Number or other national identification number, and in some ways more so because of its breadth of usage.  Though most of us grew up giving it out easily and have continued that practice as adults, it’s a habit that’s got to be broken if you’re serious about protecting your digital identity.

Simply put, your phone number is now a more powerful identifier than your full name. Do an internet search on your phone number or anyone else’s.  Your relatives, residence history, current address, property taxes and more come back in search; the reverse-number lookup is a common trick for today’s hacker.  I found out more about protecting your phone number at a recent internal security workshop given by my colleague Marco Vazquez, part of an employee series at Rubica where we teach each other best security practices in a group setting.

Top 5 Tips to Protect Your Digits

  1. Avoid the SIM swap With the info above from searching your phone number in a search engine, a hacker can steal your phone number by convincing your carrier they are you, having them reassign the phone number to their own SIM card, and then accessing and resetting your online accounts linked to your phone number, one by one. I recently discovered that all of the major carriers offer extra layers of security from extra PINs to passphrases. Take advantage of whatever they offer to make SIM swapping harder.
  2. Forget loyalty programs You know those coupons come at the cost of your data, right? And what happens if your coffee shop that stores your phone number gets hacked?  It’s just another entry point for data theft, so protect your digital identity by skipping the points or using a burner phone number.
  3. Use a burner number Google Voice and Burner apps are excellent ways to get a burner phone number, and this is the one you should have on accounts whenever possible.
  4. Only give your number to people you trust In case the last point wasn’t persuasive enough, your phone number should now be for friends and family only. If you have a business card, make sure it has only your business number or your Google Voice number if you need to distribute it.  Shred your old business cards and anything that lists your personal number.
  5. Leave the form blank Re-consider how often you need to give out your phone number on forms in homes and businesses. Don’t leave it in a guestbook when you travel or anywhere someone random can get it. Be careful where you write it down or offer an email address instead.  It’s worth a reminder that print is permanent.

Looking for other ways to protect your digital identity?  Rubica can help with that.