Scambuster: How Giving Out Your Phone Number Can Hurt You

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Did you know that giving out your cell phone number could do more harm than good?

Think about how many times a day you give out your phone number. When you shop online, when you order a magazine subscription, at the doctor’s office, at the pharmacy, even when you Netflix. They’ve got your information and can do anything with it.

“Because every time you sign up for something, there’s a little bitty clause in little fine writing that says your information is now ours and we’re going to share it to everybody we want to. And it’s sold, it’s given away and all these telemarketers get it and they call you,” says Detective Laura Soulier with the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office.

And it can reveal a lot about you. Just a quick search on a website like FamilyTreeNow.com shares the names of relatives and past and current addresses. Anything that is open records, they can find.

“And that’s just the free stuff that they can get their hands on! If they actually wanted to go online and pay for a background check on you, they can get a lot more stuff,” says Soulier.

And if it’s that easy for businesses or telemarketers to get that information, think about how easy it is for scammers to get it. All they need to do is email you saying you’ve won a free cruise and all you have to do is write back with a few details like your address and phone number, that is, if they haven’t gotten it already from a third party source. That’s why Soulier says always think twice before giving out that number.

So what can you do? You can use apps like Sideline or Google Voice, which gives you a dummy phone number you can give out to people and it will call your line while protecting your information.

“Our footprint out on the internet is huge, it’s larger than you can even believe.”

Another thing to do—you can opt out of those search engines where people can find your information. You can go to the white pages, or that site I showed you—family tree now.com. it’s not easy to opt out, but here’s an article that can help explain how: http://www.computerworld.com/article/2849263/doxxing-defense-remove-your-personal-info-from-data-brokers.html