Why you Should not Share Phone Number with Strangers

Why you Should not Share Phone Number with Strangers

Why you Should not Share Phone Number with Strangers:

Do you share your personal contact details with strangers without an iota of fear? Do you fill online forms including sensitive personal details like phone number casually? If yes, you must read this article to know about it’s possible repercussions.

The following write-up discusses what a stranger can possibly do with your number and how to reduce the risks involved. It includes the worst case scenario that may happen to you by sharing your personal mobile number to untrustworthy people. 

Personal Profiling:
Our identity is closed tied to phone number than ever before. We use numbers not only for communication but also for authentication purposes e.g., two-factor-authentication. Now several aspects of our digital lives hinges on mobile numbers.  

As a result, your mobile number can be used to find a lot of sensitive personal information online. In fact, by paying a small amount of fees, surprising amount of personal information can be gathered. In this context, data brokering companies are worth mentioning as they collect, store, analyze and sell data about individuals. The information sold / available online ranges from name, residential address, educational records, employment history and much more. 

Once the details are gathered, the same can be mis-used in a number of ways. Notably, the information can be used to garner your trust to defraud you later on. Even worse, a stalker may use the same to stalk you on other platforms like social media sites. In recent times, Advanced Persistent Threats has increased considerably. These attacks invariably involve gathering data about targets from all possible sources including mobile numbers. 

An example is EyeCon Android app, which can provide very accurate information about any number in India. This excellent caller ID can help identify the caller in the most detailed manner, with a single click on the icon. Using Eyecon a stranger can even see your photos and names. Worse, he/ she can directly navigate to your Facebook profile, if your Facebook profile has been created with the mobile number shared. 

By using plethora of similar services like ZlookUp, Truecaller, Google search etc the data can be collected, sorted and analyzed to find near accurate information about you. Therefore, beware from sharing your numbers casually to strangers.

Criminal Intimidation & Threats:
Once your number reaches stalkers or/and anti-social elements, they may threaten you via calls, messages, WhatsApp etc. Reports worldwide suggest that around 10% women and 2% men experience stalking at least once in their lifetime. Similarly, criminal intimidation and threats may follow after sharing numbers publically. 

Stalking in worst can lead to violence, murder, kidnapping, acid attack and more. 

Selling your Data to Third Parties:
You must have received promotional marketing or calls, isn’t it? Have you ever wondered how they got hold of your personal number? Well, your details were perhaps sold by data brokers who in turn collect it from various sources. Thus, someone might be profiting from your sensitive personal information, therefore don’t share it with strangers casually. 

The more the data about you, better it is for marketing companies. As is provides excellent business opportunities. Therefore, any stranger you are sharing your number with, say on a anonymous chat platform, may sell your number and other personal details. So be sure to guard your personal mobile numbers jealously.  

Tracking your Location:
Besides profiling and stalking you, you located can be tracked by help of your mobile number. The intent can be good or bad, but ultimately it’s invasion of privacy. A prevalent and easy method that can be used by even novice to track your location is as follows:

How to Create a Link for Tracking:
The process of creating a tracking link using IP Logger involves simple steps, explained below: 

Step 1: Navigate to the website https://iplogger.org/ and tap on the “Location Tracker”. It will lead to the page as shown below.

 Step 2: Click on “Create Location Tracker Link”, which leads to page as shown below:  

Check the box “I agree with Terms of Use and Privacy Policy”, followed by tap on “Next”.  It shall open the page as shown below:

Here, the page displays the following:

  • Your IPLogger link for collecting statistics
  • Your IPLogger link for displaying 100 IPs without recording data into database
  • Link for viewing statistics
  • IPLogger ID (Required for accessing logger statistics!!!) 
  • Time zone

Step 3: Send the IP Logger link to the target. Once the target clicks on the link you shall see the rough geographical location, as shown below: 

However, the default link generated by IP Logger finally navigates to a suspicious page.

SIM Swapping:
SIM swap attack is a relatively new and sophisticated form of cyber crime. It is also known as SIM splitting, SIM jacking, SIM hijacking, or port-out scamming. 

These attacks are based on Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards which are the storage for user data in Global System for Mobile (GSM) phones. Without a SIM card, your GSM phone won’t connect to a mobile network.

You need a One Time Password (OTP) sent by your bank on the linked phone number to complete the log-in process, isn’t it? But what if fraudsters swap the SIM? It will give them complete control over the number and thus OTP also. 

Thus, in a SIM Swap fraud case, fraudsters manage to get a new SIM card issued against the victim’s number through the mobile service provider. With the new SIM, they perform unauthorized financial transactions by having the access to OTPs and alerts. 

Let’s see the steps involved in SIM swap attacks. 

  1. Social Engineering: In this step, the scammer gathers as much information as possible about the prospecting victim. The various means to obtain such information includes Phishing, Vishing, Smishing, Call spoofing etc. OSINT, Open Source Intelligence Techniques are also used to gather relevant information about the victim e.g., through social media analysis.   
  2. Blocking the Regular SIM: The scammer approaches the mobile service provider and gets the regular genuine SIM blocked. Subsequently, they visit the operator’s outlet posing as customer, with the fake documents. 
  3. Issuance of New SIM: The mobile service provider then deactivates the original SIM and issues a new one to the fraudster. 
  4. The Unauthorized Bank Transaction Stage: The fraudster starts receiving the OTP required for bank transactions.  

Doxxing:

Doxxing refers to the process of gathering fragments of personal information and posting them online – whether on a private or public page. In most of the cases, the intent is to harass the person or make others harass the target. 

The process of gathering information may be illegal or legal. For example, hacking is former and using different OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) tools and techniques is later. The dangers of doxing are manifold, but there are also several ways to protect ourselves from being doxxed. 

Doxing is typically a targeted attack. The victim may be an active member of the internet groups, and have opinion contrary to the doxxer’s. This happens particularly in case of sensitive political or religious discussions. 

A doxxer may have a real life personal animosity with the victim. Other situations which may lead to doxing include: 

  • Failed real life relation 
  • Recent break up 
  • Historical conflict 
  • Difference of opinion or 
  • Prank by a friend

And the damage inflicted can be severe. 

One such example is “Swatting”. In these cases, an individual calls up the Law Enforcement Authorities with a tip about a violent criminal or similar figure. This brings in police to the location, where target of the harassment has no idea of the situation. This misunderstanding can lead to severe consequences. 

Depending on the level of violence and disruption in one’s life, the victim is forced to change email ID and phone number to vacate the place of living or even to leave the job. All depends on the volume of disruption and false reporting. 

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Share your virtual or secondary phone number: Avoid sharing your personal phone number on social media, chat or anywhere else to un-trustworthy people. By sharing virtual or secondary numbers, you make sure that strangers can’t extract much out of it. Similarly, these virtual numbers are perfect for those you may not be dealing again with. 
  • Use VPN: You should use Virtual Private Network like Nord, Turbo etc to browse the internet. It secures and encrypts the connections between the client and server side. Additionally it hides your IP address, therefore it will be harder for hackers to intercept the communication and get your personal details, like numbers, email etc …
  • Don’t reuse login-credentials: You should never use same login credentials on different websites. Otherwise, if any of your credentials would get compromised, then all your other accounts would have similar fate. 
  • Download apps only from Play-store and App-store: Downloading apps from third party sites can be fraught with risks. This is because, Play-store has in built mechanism to check and remove malicious apps. In fact, Play-store on regular basis removes apps that steal critical sensitive information like bank details from their users. 
  • Improve your cell phone security features: Use complete AV solution, anti-phishing and anti-malware solutions. Also keep them up-to date for most efficient protection. 
  • Don’t share sensitive information like phone number on emails, with strangers. 
  • Delete personal information when you want to discontinue use of old phone. Also, dispose discarded electronic devices carefully. 
  • Report any incidence of identity theft or impersonation with Law Enforcement Agencies immediately. 
  • Don’t use any app/ services that forces you to give your phone number as identifier. Also, you should keep your online accounts separate from your real identity – no linking of your phone number whenever you can!