Is your cellphone number just as valuable as your social security number?

Despite the recent news, your cell phone number is useful – but not putting you at risk.

mobile device management
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I’ve seen some recent news coverage touting that cell phone numbers are just as valuable to hackers and identity thieves as Social Security Numbers (SSN). As an organization that has been providing advice and risk minimization information for close to two decades, we are always concerned when a leap in logic goes one leap too far, as is the case with equating cell phone numbers with SSNs. To that end, let’s focus on the most important takeaways here.

While there are definitely ways your cell phone number can be useful, it’s important to understand what someone can—and cannot—do with just the number.

Your SSN is considered one of the most critical pieces of sensitive data, almost like the Holy Grail of identity theft information. Your cell phone number on the other hand, while still an important tool for identifying yourself and accessing further information, is not required for opening new lines of credit, making large-scale purchases, applying for benefits, employment, and other functions that an SSN provides.

Therefore, you should protect your SSN as best you can and be very careful about sharing it with those who ask for it. Like your cell phone number, it is an important instrument that you must provide to engage in certain activities and to avail yourself of specific services; unlike your cell phone number, it cannot easily be replaced or changed if it falls into the wrong hands. Never having to share your SSN is not an option, but you can certainly be cautious about who you give it to as oversharing your SSN can result in the theft of your identity.

While your cell phone number is nowhere near as potentially harmful in the wrong hands as your SSN, there are other considerations about protecting your cell phone number:

  • Oversharing or giving out your number at every turn can lead to spam calls, unwanted solicitors, and more.
  • Your cell phone number could be used to send you scam text messages that contain links to malicious software.
  • Your phone number could be used for phone scams, putting your finances and/or your identity at risk.

They key takeaway here is that your mobile device is much more worthy of concern and protection than the phone number associated with it. The data you store within your mobile device (this includes tablets) could pose a serious risk for consumers. Your cell phone number might not help a thief steal your identity, but your smartphone itself can easily cause serious damage if it falls into the wrong hands. For example, a thief could access your email account and change all of your account logins, access your two-factor authentication, drain money from your mobile wallet, and more. Safeguard your cell phone as if it contained every bit of your identity, because in some ways, it does.

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