Is Your Old-School Phone Number Putting You At Risk For Fraud?

phone booth, street phone, telephone

Photo: Flickr / boklm

My mother’s had the same cell phone number for nearly fifteen years, and I’ve had mine for five. Recently she’s started receiving two to three harassing calls a day, which got me thinking: Does holding on to the same phone number for years put you at greater risk for fraud?  

I tapped Robert Siciliano, an identity theft expert with McAfee, who had some good news and bad news. 

“More than anything, what these issues boil down to—unless fraud is actually being perpetrated by marketers getting you to cough up personal info.—is just an annoyance,” he says.

The bad news is we’ll still get the calls. 

To deal with the headache, Siciliano recommends plugging your cell number into the government’s DoNotCall.gov registry and signing up for Google Voice so you can screen each call before picking up. 

Another option is to sign up for a call forwarding service, which lets phone calls ring once before sending them straight to voicemail. Marketers tend to give up once they realise they can’t get through to a real human being, says Siciliano. 

But whatever you do, don’t change your phone number since it’ll actually make things worse. 

“At this point the phone numbers are being recycled,” Siciliano explains, “and there are so many phone numbers are out there. If you were to give up your number and get a new one in the same area code, chances are someone would have given up that number 90 days ago. Basically, you’re inheriting someone else’s headache. They may have given it up because they, too, were getting unwanted phone calls and texts.” 

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