It’s easy enough to change the mobile number you use. You just visit your mobile carrier and request one of the available numbers and they can update your iPhone or Android phone just by inserting a new SIM card.
But when you turn in your cell number for a new one, you could be leaving yourself open to a cloud account breach or identity theft.
A Princeton University study brought some eye-opening statistics to light when it looked at the security of available phone numbers from two major carriers (Verizon and T-Mobile). It found that a majority of those numbers were still tied to the former owners’ cloud accounts.
Out of 259 numbers showing as available to new cell phone subscribers by those carriers, 66% of them were still connected to accounts with popular websites, meaning the owners had never changed their number when they dropped it.
Linked accounts that could be hijacked via account recovery tied to the old mobile number were found on:
Some stories from a survey connected to the study found that new subscribers to recycled mobile numbers often received the old owner’s texts, including one person receiving messages with blood test results and spa appointment reminders. Another person that had recently changed their cell number accidentally accessed the prior owner’s email inbox after requesting a login passcode by SMS.
What Can a Criminal Do With My Old Cell Number?
The typical person that receives your old recycled mobile number might not have malicious intent and just find it inconvenient to deal with SMS messages meant for you. But criminals have now gotten wise to the fact that the right cell number can mean access to accounts with stored credit cards and other sensitive information.
Some carriers list available cell numbers on their websites, and all someone with a malicious agenda would need to do is look those numbers up online to see what accounts they may still be connected to. If it looks lucrative, they could request that number for all kinds of potential harm to that former owner.
Some of the possibilities include:
- Breach your accounts via password recovery
- Breach your accounts via multi-factor authentication
- Phishing attacks posing as you against friends, family, colleagues
- Identity theft using your personal information
- Credit card fraud
Security Steps to Take When Turning in a Mobile Number
Change Your Number for All Online Accounts
You should go through all your online accounts to change your contact number from old to new. This includes all retail shopping sites, streaming sites (Netflix, etc.), business applications (Microsoft 365, Slack, etc.). and any other accounts you have, such as online banking, and others.
Double Check Your Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
MFA is one of the best protections you can have to keep unauthorized people from breaching your accounts. However, if a stranger has the number that still receives your MFA codes, it gives them access to any connected accounts.
After you’ve changed your number with your online accounts, make sure to test the MFA prompt to ensure it is redirecting correctly to the new phone number.
Change Your Phone Number on Social Media
Don’t forget your social media accounts when you’re updating from your old mobile number to your new one. A hacker could easily breach your accounts if your old number is still connected and pose as you to phish your friend connections.
Change Your Number With Medical Providers
Sensitive medical information, like the blood test results noted in the university study, is often sent via SMS these days. This includes everything from prescription refills to the timing of your next teeth cleaning.
Make sure that you contact your medical providers and any pharmacies you use and update your contact number so your personal medical information isn’t being sent to a stranger.
Review Text History for Accounts You’ve Missed
We are connected to so many different online accounts these days, it’s easy to miss one. Check through the text message history on your phone for any texts from accounts or companies that you may have forgotten about and then update your number with them.
Text Friends, Family, Colleagues from the New Number
If your friends, family, co-workers, or clients still have an old text message on their phone, it’s easy for them to use that to message you, even if you’ve told them your number has changed.
Try texting them from the new number and in that text ask them to delete any former text conversation you had on the old number and to immediately update your contact with this new mobile number in the SMS.
Get Help With Mobile Security, Phone Repairs, & More!
Carl’s Computer Care can help your Louisiana home or business with several mobile phone services, including expert repairs and security solutions.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation! Call 225-315-3498 or reach us online.