I didn’t think it was a big deal.
For years, I freely gave out my mobile number — both personally and professionally. I didn’t see the harm in it, and since I was mostly self-employed, it became second nature to rattle it off so I could be reached for interviews. I included it on my business cards, and when I posted selfies at conferences, I didn’t bother to blur it out. What was the point? My number was everywhere, anyway.
I didn’t know about temporary phone number apps like Hushed. But when I started working with the company, I realized that every time I put my real phone number out into the world, I was sharing an important piece of my identity — for basically no reason at all.
During my first few weeks with Hushed, I learned about the reasons people opt for the privacy of a temporary phone number, like online dating or selling something. It made perfect sense.
Then I started digging into the reasons why it can be dangerous to broadcast your real phone number, and I was … alarmed.
Your phone number can reveal critical private information:
- Your full name
- Your birthday
- Your address (and past addresses)
- Your family members
- Your employer
- Your school (past or present)
- Your social media accounts
- Your financial information
- Your criminal record, if you have one
In the wrong hands, your phone number can be used maliciously:
- Someone can contact your carrier (pretending to be you) and reroute your calls
- Someone can intercept your two-factor authentication texts
- Someone can spoof your number to make calls that appear to be coming from you
- Someone can send you “smishing” texts that infect your phone with malware
- Someone can text you pretending to be someone you trust, and trick you into revealing even more personal information
I started to get worried. I’d had no idea it was so important to protect my real phone number, and I’ve had my current mobile number for about 11 years, so I decided to search it to see what (if anything) came up.
So I Googled my phone number. In microseconds, here’s what it revealed:
- My full name
- The small town where I live
- Pictures of me
- Pictures of one of my children!
- Pictures of me with friends
- Details on past speaking engagements
I couldn’t believe it. It was stupid to ever share unblurred pictures of my business card (no matter how many I handed out, or left on tables at conferences). And while the majority of the traffic was coming from a post about a conference, the photo of my baby was appearing in the Google results because it was a “Related post” shared at the bottom. Sure, I can try to delete those posts and remove the content, but the internet never forgets, does it?
And that’s just what appeared when I Googled my phone number. I can’t even begin to imagine all the places I have voluntarily provided this number.
Countless platforms, accounts, and businesses (both online and in person) have access to my mobile number. In the run of a week, how many texts do I get to confirm appointments, provide a one-time log-in link, or ask for two-factor authentication? (Many, many.)
I’ve learned that your phone number is precious, and shouldn’t be given away to just anyone.
Now I’ve got my very own Hushed number that I can give that out to the people and places I’ll only interact with temporarily (I’m looking at you, Kijiji ad). If I get inundated with annoying calls — long after my items sell — and decide I don’t want it anymore, I can ditch it and get a brand-new Hushed number in seconds.
Best of all, Googling my Hushed number isn’t going to provide a single detail about me or my family.
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