Back in the day, a phone number was simply a piece of contact information, a way for your friends and family to call you. Nowadays, companies use phone numbers to identify you or prove who you are by texting security codes or calling for verification.

Think about the many ways you use your phone number. You include it when you sign up on websites or log into an app. You give it to your favorite store as part of their loyalty program and share it to receive text alerts from your bank. You use it when you need to reset a password or login to your accounts using two-factor authentication.

That also means that with your phone number and some other information, like your birthday or address, bad guys have a better chance of impersonating you and getting to your personal data and accounts.

Here are a few ways to secure your phone number to protect your identity from the bad guys.

  • Don’t overshare your mobile phone number. Don’t share your phone number online (social media, comments sections , untrusted apps, etc.) or provide it to strangers.
  • Think about where your number is used. Keep a running list of the companies and accounts that use your phone number to prove who you are.
  • Consider using a landline number. For situations where a phone number is an identifier for discounts and loyalty rewards, like grocery stores, consider using a landline or other non-mobile number.
  • Unsubscribe from text alerts. Text messages from companies, like your airline or bank, can be convenient. But sometimes there are other ways they can contact you. Some companies have apps so you can receive updates without including your phone number.
  • Set up an extra layer of protection for your wireless account. For example, AT&T customers can add a passcode to their account. Find out how to add extra security here.
  • Secure your mobile device. Lock your phone when it’s not in use and avoid bad apps. Learn more about phone security in this Cyber Aware blog.

Aside from the risk for identity theft, giving out your phone number can lead to spam calls, phone scams or unsafe text messages that have links to malware.

Bottom line: it’s important to secure both your personal information and your mobile number. The next time an app, a company or a stranger asks for your mobile number, take a moment to decide whether you really need to give it out.