Your phone number got leaked? Here’s what cybercriminals can do with it and how you can stop them
Caches of mobile phone numbers are gold mines for scammers and cybercriminals who use exposed information to commit fraud and other financially motivated crimes against unwary consumers.
With data breaches involving compromised personally identifiable information (PII) occurring daily, your phone number is likely to end up in the hands of malicious individuals who can use it in nefarious ways, including:
- Conduct doxing or searching for additional identifiable information about you online. By creating comprehensive profiles of their victims, cybercriminals can wage successful attacks and impersonate the user.
- Impersonate you to reroute text messages and calls to take over online accounts. Once a malicious individual has your phone number, they may attempt to contact the carrier company claiming to be you. If the reroute succeeds, they can intercept all your communications and log in to your financial and social media accounts.
- Target you with scams and malicious attacks. A leaked phone number means that scammers may spam you with fake text messages that aim to steal your data and money or trick you into downloading malicious software onto the device.
- Harass you and your family. Having your phone number out in the open can leave you vulnerable to stalking or harassment.
- Sell your information to marketers and spammers or use your number for robocalls.
- Commit crimes under your name and scam your friends and family.
Five easy steps to take if your phone number gets compromised or hacked
Limiting the damage caused by a data breach or leak is your first line of defense against scammers and fraudulent activity on your accounts. Here’s what you need to do:
- Contact your mobile service provider to let them know your number has been compromised and that someone has been illegally accessing your accounts.
- Switch the two-factor authentication on accounts using the compromised phone number. You can use either a safe phone number or an authenticator app. When you make these adjustments, change your security questions as well.
- Notify your friends, family and coworkers of any compromise so they don’t fall for any scams perpetrated in your name.
- Check your accounts for suspicious activity and watch out for social engineering attacks such as phishing via text messages or unsolicited phone calls.
- Notify the police if you have fallen victim to fraud or identity theft in the process.
Want to find out if your phone number got leaked? Bitdefender has your back
This November hundreds of millions of phone numbers belonging to WhatsApp users from across the globe were leaked on the dark web. This includes users in the US, France, UK, Germany, Italy and Australia who are facing multiple attacks on their privacy and digital livelihood.
With Bitdefender’s Digital Identity Protection service, you can now regain control of your digital self and hunt down exposed personal data in legal and illegal collections of data that may put your identity and financial wellbeing at risk. You can easily manage and monitor your digital footprint and:
- Discover the extent of the digital you
- Find out if and what type of personal data has been exposed in data breaches over the years
- Track down old accounts that may lack proper security
- Benefit from 24/7 data breach monitoring
- Get instant alerts to new breaches and privacy threats
- Detect social media impersonators who can ruin your reputation
If you need added digital protection and help to secure your online privacy, check out one of our all-in-one security solutions such as Bitdefender Ultimate Security (US only) and Bitdefender Premium Security that offer some handy features for all you digital nomads, including:
- Real-time protection against cyberthreats (trojans, worms, viruses, zero-day, ransomware, spyware, rootkits, exploits) on Windows, Android, iOS and macOS
- Cross-platform Password Manager and Premium VPN with unlimited traffic for your privacy
- Anti-phishing module that detects and blocks sites that purport to be legitimate to steal your credentials or assets
- Anti-fraud filtering system that notifies you of potential website scams
- Dedicated browser – Bitdefender Safepay (for Windows only) – to keep your online shopping and banking transactions private
- Chat Protection for instant messaging apps on Android-enabled devices
- Identity theft protection, depending on your location and chosen plan
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