A scammer can use your phone number to harass you and your close ones and steal valuable data and sensitive information while impersonating you.
The huge progress of technology and the vastness of the Internet has brought many things, both good and bad. And somewhere in between people found a way to use someone else’s phone number and get away with it unnoticed.
And with all the breaches that have happened lately, there’s a possibility that you may fall a victim to phone spoofing scam.
Can someone steal my phone number?
Most definitely, yes! Your mobile phone number is present throughout the Internet, and it’s prone to being an easy target for scammers to try and hijack it and gain access to all your data, social media accounts logins, apps logins, and text messages, etc.
There are plenty of ways your mobile phone number and your privacy may be compromised and used for malicious intent:
The simplest form for scammers to use your mobile phone number is by putting it through people search sites – where in a swift method the scammers can acquire enough information about you. All those search sites sell your personal information to hackers and scammers.
What’s scary is that there’s plenty of data they can find about you just from putting your mobile phone number through a people search site.
Your address, criminal records, and close relatives’ names among other things are at their disposal to be used by the scammers to blackmail you, hack your social media accounts, and even commit identity theft.
To put it simply, phone spoofing is when a scammer makes your phone number appear on a recipient’s caller id when you didn’t even make the call. Essentially, phone spoofing is used to hide the real identity.
And there are plenty of reasons why it’s done so frequently:
- Access to valuable pieces of information: A standard method used by private investigators and collection agencies to lower the risk of being detected while gathering sensitive data through spoofing.
- Business purposes: Plenty of businesses spoof real local phone numbers to mask their identity to protect buyers’ and sellers’ phone numbers, and to prevent transactions from happening outside their platform. Each of them gets a number that can be temporarily used for calls, and once the period expires the spoofed numbers are reassigned to other parties.
- Commit fraud: This goes without saying. Phone spoofing is used to persuade and scam potential victims to make big purchases or to provide plenty of valuable information that may be used to access bank accounts which results in the victim losing his money.
A sim swap scam is a danger that lurks frequently and the things that can be done with sim swapping can cause some serious trouble.
A scammer usually searches for a weak spot in two-factor authentication and two-step verification. Also, he will use social engineering techniques to exploit the service provider to port the victims’ mobile phone numbers to the fraudster’s SIM card.
Once the sim swapping has occurred, the scammer will now receive any text messages and voice calls that were intended for the victim.
And because he now has the number, he could easily bypass the two-factor authentication methods and gain access to any account that is tied with the number, from your contact list, your address, and area code up to your financial accounts, social media accounts, etc.
This will leave an open space for him to either transfer money from the victim’s bank account, extort him, or to sell his data on the black market on the deep web which can be used for identity theft.
Things go further down the line. You may not even be able to get your cell phone number back once the scammer managed to fully convince the telecom service provider.
How to protect yourself from phone spoofing?
Now that we’ve made it clear that your phone number can be spoofed, we’ve compiled practical ways to deal with this potentially serious issue:
Change your number, get a new SIM card
The first logical thing to do is to change your phone number.
Yeah, it may be a hassle to get a new SIM and retrieve all the contacts that you’ve accumulated throughout the years, but changing your phone number sometimes may be the only option
Contact your telecom provider and change your phone number as soon as possible.
Leave a voicemail message
To let your contacts know that you’re a victim of phone spoofing, leave a voicemail answering message that says your phone number has been spoofed and that they should not engage with the caller.
Make sure you also tell them to block the number so that it will lose the value for being utilized by being blocked numerous times.
File a report to the FCC
If you are sure that someone is using your cell phone number, filing a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may be the best option to sort this issue out.
Just go to their website and fill in all the information needed or call their hotline.
Protect your privacy
Discretion is advised. Do not put your phone number on your public profile or any online account.
Update your information on all accounts, and use different usernames and passwords on all online accounts for extra security.
Additionally, check your credit card bills, phone bills, and bank statements. If something seems odd, report immediately to the financial institutions and let their work professionals check for everything.
The best way to not fall a victim to spoofing is early prevention.
And even then there’s still a chance that a scammer will find a way to use your phone number to commit a crime or to scam other cell phones.
If the worst happens, freeze everything! Freeze your cell phone number, and your bank accounts and contact all the service providers that can help you sort the problems out.
Additionally, keep track of all the call logs and messages you’ve done so that you can protect yourself from being held responsible for any potentially illegal activities committed by phone calls using your number.
Take all these things into consideration and apply every step for much-needed security.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is caller ID phone spoofing legal?
According to the United States Truth Caller ID Act of 2009, phone spoofing is allowed but it’s considered illegal when a person ” knowingly transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value”. And if there’s plenty of evidence that states they have violated this act, their actions are considered illegal and they will face a penalty.
- How do I know if callers are using spoofed Caller ID?
To quickly identify if the caller is using a spoofed Caller ID, dial the number that appears on your display. The cell phone number may be busy or give you an inactive message and you even may get a person to answer your calls to tell you that they didn’t make an attempt to call your cell phone number.
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