If you’re online dating, you’re probably already familiar with the Unofficial Communication Order that everyone seems to follow when they’re getting to know someone new …
LEVEL 1: Connect with someone in an online site/app
LEVEL 2: Message constantly on the site/app
LEVEL 3: Exchange phone numbers and start texting
LEVEL 4: Talk for hours over the phone
LEVEL 5: Meet in person for the first time
It’s a tale as old as time itself, whether you met them on ICQ back in 1998 or Plenty of Fish in 2022. So where do you spot the first potential danger? If you said No. 5 (Meeting in person), you’re wrong.
One of the riskiest things you can do while online dating is give a stranger your real phone number.
Giving out your real phone number might not sound like a big deal. After all, phone numbers are meant to be given out and called, right?
Well, the reality is you probably hold onto your phone number for years (possibly even decades), and that means it’s forever tied to your private information. Every time you use your real phone number when you you sign up for an account, sell something online, fill out a form, or jot it down on a slip of paper, you’re increasing the chances that your number will fall into the wrong hands.
But why shouldn’t I give someone my real number?
When you’re dating online and talking to lots of new people, giving out your phone number might feel like the natural next step so you can text and call them outside of the online dating site or app. But, as we’re about to show you, that can cause problems very quickly …
- They can find your real name
Maybe you were calling yourself something else on the online dating site, like going by your middle name to protect your privacy? Well, if you give a stranger on an online dating site your real phone number, it just takes a quick Google search for them to likely pull up your full real name.
- They can find out where you live
Your current address (as well as past addresses) can also be linked to your phone number. So if you were playing it vague about your address to stay safe while online dating, that all goes out the window when you give them your real phone number. Instead of “I live in Atlanta,” suddenly the person might have your full street address.
- They can find out where you work (or go to school)
Maybe you told a little white lie on your online dating profile, and pretended your job was something different than it really is (either because you didn’t want them to know your workplace or school, or you just liked messing around with a fun fake life that included your dream job title). Once someone has your real phone number, it’s usually easy to tie it to where you work or go to school. Do you really want someone you met online dating to show up at your place of work, or stalk you on campus?
- They can learn your family and friends
Maybe this is just us, but we’re pretty sure you don’t want your family and friends meeting your new ‘special someone’ when you’ve only reached Level 3: Texting. How creepy would it be if they started contacting your friends and family? It happens more often than you think, once they’ve used your real phone number to figure out your inner circle.
- They can uncover your real social media accounts
By looking you up via your real phone number, the person you’ve been texting with can see your accounts on social media (which, as we’ve mentioned above, might use a different name than the one you’ve told them). Just think of how much information they can glean from your photos, tags, and mentions — like the places you visit, the people you’re with, where you work, and how you spend your free time.
- They can re-route your calls and texts
Once someone knows your real phone number, it takes just seconds to find out your phone carrier. Then they can contact your carrier, pretend to be you, and re-route your calls and texts elsewhere. It’s easier than you might think.
- They can spoof your phone number
‘Spoofing’ a phone number means someone is making calls or sending texts from what appears to be your exact phone number. This is dangerous because that person can pretend to be you, either over the phone or by sending texts. They could start reaching out to your friends and family, masquerading as you, and ask leading questions to find out even more personal information.
- They can intercept your two-factor authentication
Think of all the accounts that use two-factor authentication texts. Now imagine a person with access to your phone number, merrily working through way through your accounts, requesting password resets and tapping into your two-factor authentication to lock you out.
Woah, I never knew this was an online dating risk
Many people don’t think twice about giving someone their phone number. After all, they feel like they’re in control since they’re the one who gets to decide if they actually pick up those calls or answer those texts.
This is how it usually goes …
- STAGE 1: Excited to see the person calling or texting
- STAGE 2: Meh, I’ll answer them when I feel like it
- STAGE 3: Irritated, rarely answers/responds
- STAGE 4: Over it, blocks the person’s phone number
People often don’t realize that it doesn’t end just because you blocked them.
- STAGE 5: The person may be blocked, but they still know your real phone number … and now they’re angry
You blocked them, and they don’t like that. How are they going to retaliate? Will it be something childish and annoying, like posting your phone number somewhere public or trying to add you to a million spammy call lists? Or will be it something more serious, like use your real phone number to dig up personal information and launch a full-out attack.
What should I do instead when I’m online dating?
It’s simple! Don’t give your real phone number to strangers. Use a temporary Hushed number instead, so you’re in control of the communication and your privacy is protected.
What’s a Hushed number?
A Hushed phone number is an internet-based phone number that works off Wi-Fi or data. It’s not tied to phone carriers/providers in any way, and works with any internet connection at all. You can use your Hushed number for calling, texting, voicemail, and lots of other features.
How does a Hushed number work?
All you need is a mobile device (phone or tablet) loaded with the free Hushed app, which is available from the App Store and Google Play. Choose from phone numbers in 300+ area codes, and you can start calling and texting on your new Hushed number right away.
Because your Hushed number works within the Hushed app, you can log into Hushed on any mobile device to use your number. So whether you’ve dropped your usual phone in the toilet and you’re using a back-up phone, or you upgrade to a new device, or you lose your phone and you borrow a friend’s phone for a few minutes, you can have full access to your Hushed number.
How much does a Hushed number cost?
You can get a Hushed number through a prepaid package or a regular subscription, and Hushed numbers start at $1.99.
And since Hushed numbers are available in 300+ area codes, you can save on long distance costs by buying a local number located in the same area as the person you’re dating online. Then, no matter where you actually are, it’s like you’re calling them from right down the street. Neat, right?
How long do I keep my Hushed number?
You can keep your Hushed number as long as you want it, or you can ditch it and get a new one whenever you want. If you’ve been chatting with someone you met online, and they turn out to be a real jerk who won’t leave you alone, then POOF! Just delete the number you’ve been using to talk to them, and they’ll never be able to contact you again.
How does Hushed protect my privacy?
When you sign up for a Hushed account, all we need is an email address (and we don’t even bother to verify it, so feel free to use an email account you never bother checking). We don’t even ask for your name!
So when you give your Hushed number to someone you’re dating (or anyone at all), there’s literally nothing tying you to that particular phone number. Keep it as long as you want it, and get rid of it anytime.
Staying safe while online dating
Whether you’re chatting with a few different people online, or just one person who feels like they might be your special someone, be sure you’re protecting your privacy by not revealing personal information about yourself:
1. Don’t reveal your address, or send photos/videos that might give someone clues about your actual location. (Remember that the location where a photo was taken might be noted within the file.)
2. Don’t tell them where you work. You don’t think someone’s going to randomly show up at your workplace until they do, and things have gotten creepy.
3. Don’t give them your real phone number. Use a Hushed number instead.
Choose a second phone number
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