(WTNH) — A new risk on our privacy and security shows more Americans are sharing their cell phone numbers too frequently, which is putting them at risk of new threats.
USA Today reports, no matter what Americans do to protect their digital privacy, especially on our handheld devices, it’s impossible to keep up with new threats. Now, there’s a new risk to our privacy and security: Our cell phone numbers are being used increasingly by information brokers as the window to personal information that’s kept by nearly all corporations, financial institutions, and, yes, social media networks.
Among those sounding the alarm bell is private investigator and former FBI agent Thomas Martin, who recently wrote a blog post titled, “Your cell phone number is your new Social Security number.” Martin’s message was clear: We are way too lackadaisical about keeping our numbers private.
1. Use common sense: If you’re asked for your phone number, ask why. In general, don’t give it out to people you don’t know see if you can leave it blank on online forms—even if that means it may take a few seconds more to identify you the next time you make a purchase.
2. Get a virtual phone number: This is similar to a virtual credit card number, where you have what’s essentially a fake number as your public number. Here’s where you can get one from Google Voice.
3. Enable two-factor or multi-factor authentication on all your devices: This is what happens every time you go to an ATM: to make a withdrawal you need both your debit card and a PIN number. That’s two-factor authentication, which amps up the level of security on your devices.
4. Sign up for the “do not call” lists, which are helpful for run-of-the-mill solicitations. JD Sherry warned me, however that “hackers don’t subscribe to such lists.” Well, at least you won’t get as many pesky marketing calls.
5. Get more than one cell phone: Former FBI agent Tom Martin has three, but he only gives out the number to the phone that contains no data or links to personal information.
6. Choose which private data you are willing to share: When asked for your cell number, especially at a retailer, you may be able provide an email address, zip code or just your name as a way to identify you. It’s worth asking about.
Of course, all of this takes more time and effort and raises the larger question: How much privacy and security are we willing to trade away for a little more convenience? That’s up to each of us to decide.
You can get more information on what we can do to try and avoid these new threats by clicking here.