When you're asked to share your phone number ... should you?

You’ve just shared your phone number. But what else have you shared? Here are the risks you may never have considered.

You sign up for a loyalty card. You open an account on social media. You sign up for a new online service.  You’re asked to supply your name and your email address - and, more and more often these days, your phone number. 

Our mobile phones are practically extensions of our bodies - of our very selves. They live on or near us 24/7. They hold our most precious memories, our most intimate secrets - from our bank balances to our dating life. They track our movements, our appointments, our connections.

Your phone number is an even more accurate way of identifying you than your own name, say experts. 

And unlike even our physical addresses, our mobile phone numbers rarely change. They follow us faithfully from job to job, house to house - even from country to country.

All of that - in a highly connected world - means your mobile phone number is probably the most powerful piece of personal information you own. It also means that when you give that number out, you're handing out a key to your life.

And if that sounds dramatic - so are the consequences.

The risks

Anyone with access to your phone number and an easily available online public records directory can view an astounding array of information about your life. Your birth date. Your current address. Your past address. The taxes you pay. The names of family members. 

In fact, your phone number is an even more accurate way of identifying you than your own name, says security researcher Emre Tezisci.

phone as mirrorArmed with the information your phone number has unlocked, a hacker could:

  • Reset passwords for your online accounts by answering security questions like “What is your mother’s maiden name?”
  • SIM swap, by tricking your phone carrier into porting your number onto a new SIM card, and proceed to 
    • Break into your accounts by receiving an SMS security code
    • Con family members into sharing passwords or sending money

But it’s not just hackers who can, and do, take your phone number and run with it. Dodgy marketers can also exploit the access you’ve provided - for example, adding your number to a database that will spam you with promotions.

When is it safe?

Are there situations where sharing your phone number can actually protect you? Absolutely, say cyber security experts. 

For example, the two-factor verification process your bank may use before initiating a transaction, which entails sending an SMS with a one-time-use code. In this case, you are enhancing your security by allowing access to your phone number. 

But with other companies - Facebook, most notably - there have been worrying breaches regarding two-factor verification. And you should know that most tech companies offer alternative verification options that do not rely on SMS. On the whole, these are a safer bet.

Steps you can take

While there is no simple rule to follow, experts recommend thinking twice, and maybe even three times, before sharing your number online. Do the benefits outweigh the potential risks?

Another strategy is to set up a second phone number, using an app like Google Voice or Burner. When in doubt about the people or brands who are wanting your number, supply this “safe” number - not your primary one.


Stay up to date with all the latest digital trends, news and ideas, with Family Zone.

Find out more, and start your free trial today!

Tell me more!

Topics: Cyber Bullying, Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Excessive Device Usage, privacy, phone number, personal information

    Try Family Zone for FREE

    Sign up now to try Family Zone for 1 month, totally free of charge.

    Free Trial
    Subscribe to our newsletter
    Follow us on social media
    Popular posts
    Parental Controls | Mobile Apps | Cyber Safety | teens on social media
    Can we talk? 100 questions your teen might actually answer
    Parental Controls | Cyber Safety | Cyber Experts | parenting | roblox
    Roblox: What parents need to know about this popular gaming platform
    Parental Controls | Screen time | youtube | smartphones | WhatsApp | suicide | self-harm | momo
    MOMO unmasked
    Parental Controls | Cyber Safety | tinder | Cyber Experts | parenting | yellow
    Yellow: The Tinder for Teens
    Parental Controls | Social Media | privacy | decoy app
    Hide It Pro: A decoy app to look out for
    Cyber Bullying | Parental Controls | Screen time | Mobile Apps | Cyber Safety | online predators | tiktok | paedophile | child predator | Likee
    LIKEE: What parents need to know about this risky TikTok wannabe

    Recent posts

    Press the reset button on your kid’s online routine

    COVID blew up our teens’ screen-time. It’s time to get them back on track. In the wake of the COVID pandemic, our children are facing a ...

    Bigger families face super-sized screen-time challenges

    If you have more than one child - and statistics show 86 percent of families do - then managing screen-time can be double trouble. Or ...

    'Bigorexia' a growing risk for today's boys

    We’re starting to understand how social media can damage girls’ self-esteem - but what about our boys? New research finds disturbing ...

    The metaverse: Brave new world - or an upgrade for predators?

    Mixing kids and adult strangers in a self-moderated online environment ... What could possibly go wrong?