Should I Change My Phone Number After Identity Theft?

August 30, 2023


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    What Can Scammers Do With Your Phone Number?

    If you've experienced identity theft — or had your phone stolen — you should probably change your phone number. It's a massive inconvenience, but the pros will outweigh the cons. Let's understand why.

    Most people upgrade their smartphone every two years — especially if they’re on a contract plan.

    But while we tend to cycle through smartphones to get the latest upgrade, we never change our phone number. And the reasons are obvious. It's a painful process.

    Do you remember the last time you changed your phone number — if ever?

    There's a good chance that it happened because you switched carriers and weren't able to carry the old number with you. Apart from the inconvenience of informing all of your contacts about your new number, you probably didn't think much of the switch.

    But does this put you at risk for identity theft?

    What Happens To Your Old Phone Number?

    Have you ever thought about what happens to your old phone number? It doesn't just vanish. Instead, service providers will reuse the number, handing it off to someone else. This can happen sooner than you might expect.

    "Carriers must put numbers back into use within 90 days," Mark Wigfield, a Federal Communications Commission spokesman, told the Los Angeles Times. "That's to preserve numbers [and] avoid opening up new area codes, which is often a source of consumer confusion and complaints."

    Friends and relatives may dial your old number and reach someone else by mistake. But in the grand scheme of things, that's the least of your worries.

    💡 Related: What To Do If You're Getting Spam Calls From Your Contacts

    What Can Identity Thieves Do With Your Old Phone Number?

    The big problem is that your original phone number is still linked to your finances, medical records and business history.

    If you've had the same phone number for a long time, your entire life will be tied to it. This means criminals can try and use your phone number for illegal activities by either pretending to be you or trying to scam you over the phone.

    Here are some precautions to take:

    • Alert everyone that you've change your phone number. It is vital that all of your regular contacts know about your new phone number, so they don't accidentally send important messages to the old one. If a contact sends sensitive data to your old phone number, it puts you at risk for identity theft.
    • Adjust your two-factor authentication (2FA) settings. It's getting more common now to secure online accounts with two-factor authentication. In short, this means that every time you type in your password, the account will send a text message to your mobile device containing a separate code, which must be entered to gain access. This is a great way of ensuring that only you can get into your sensitive accounts — but it’s effectiveness is blunted if you forget to update the phone number that receives the code. You could accidentally hand the keys to your digital life to someone else.
    • Update all your online accounts. You'll want to ensure that all your online accounts are linked to your new phone number, and no longer linked to your old phone number. This is a manual hassle, but a big step in increasing your digital security and preventing unauthorized account takeover attempts.
    • Submit your new phone number to The FCC has developed a method for blocking unwanted robocalls and annoying telemarketing calls. While this isn't a guarantee for preventing identity theft, it will make your life a little bit easier. We've all seen those annoying "scam likely" calls popping up on our caller ID. Anything you can do to reduce scam calls is always a great move.

    💡 Related: What To Do If a Scammer Has Your Phone Number

    Identity Guard Is Here To Help

    It's alarming to hear about data breaches, the Dark Web, scam calls and other ways your identity can be compromised. It's frustrating to rearrange your life just to protect yourself against identity theft.

    That's why Identity Guard is here to help. There are many solutions on the market, but Identity Guard is the top-rated alternative to many popular choices out there.

    Stay safe from fraudsters: Save 33% on your Identity Guard membership.

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    1. Financial identity theft and fraud
    2. Medical identity theft
    3. Child identity theft
    4. Elder fraud and estate identity theft
    5. “Friendly” or familial identity theft
    6. Employment identity theft
    7. Criminal identity theft
    8. Tax identity theft
    9. Unemployment and government benefits identity theft
    10. Synthetic identity theft
    11. Identity cloning
    12. Account takeovers (social media, email, etc.)
    13. Social Security number identity theft
    14. Biometric ID theft
    15. Crypto account takeovers