The simple act of placing a phone call or sending a text can leave you exposed to a whole host of headaches. Robocallers, spammers, and hackers are everywhere, so a healthy dose of telecom caution is a good idea. Want to stay safe? These 8 tips will help you avoid danger when you’re using your personal phone number.
Answer a number you don’t recognize
Many of the lists that robocallers use are filled with inactive numbers and automated business lines. One way they clean up those lists is by dialing every number and detecting whether there’s a human on the other end or not. While not answering isn’t guaranteed to get you off the list, you can bet that picking will keep you on. And the best part of not answering? Not having to deal with the call.
Reply to a text from someone you don’t know
On an episode of The Catch and Kill Podcast, private investigator Igor Ostrovskiy describes a technology that allows someone to locate you by texting. The attacker sends a phony SMS alert signup—like weather or stock alerts—and if you reply, they can get your location. While this kind of attack would usually be used for very specific, high-value targets, the existence of the technology is chilling. So whether you think someone’s trying to find you or not, ignore unexpected texts.
Give out sensitive info on an incoming call
Social engineering is a way of manipulating someone to get them to hand over information. It’s not only for the most naive among us. The recent Twitter hack was the result of a social engineering tactic called spear phishing. So if you get a call from someone that says they’re from your bank and need your debit card number, beware. They could be anyone. If you think they might actually be your bank, just hang up and call the number on the back of your card.
Call back an unverified number
That advice about grabbing your bank’s phone number from your card applies everywhere. If someone—especially someone you weren’t expecting a call from—leaves you a voicemail with a callback number, verify it. Just do a search for the number they’ve provided to make sure they are who they say they are.
Tell someone a password
Security 101 tells you that you should never give anyone an account password. And no reputable company will ever have employees ask you to tell them yours. We can pretty much guarantee you that if a customer service agent asks for your password, something fishy’s going on.
Go on speaker in public
You might have noticed that you have little to no control over other people’s actions. That’s definitely the case with what people say. So don’t put your phone on speaker anywhere that strangers could overhear your conversation. Besides, it’s the polite thing to do. Unless the camera crew for your reality show needs the audio, keep your chat private, okay?
Call or text a semi-stranger
You’re heading to meet someone you just met through a dating app, and you’re going to be a little late. What do you do? Don’t call or text from your phone while you’re still learning how much you can trust them. Instead, reach out from the Burner app with a second phone number.
Don’t use lockscreen notification previews
Being able to glance down at your phone to see what message just came in is super-convenient. It’s also super-dangerous. If you have your phone set to display a preview of incoming texts while it’s locked, anyone can see your messages. Turn off previews, along with any other lockscreen notifications that could divulge private info.
But that’s not the end
As much as it’s important to watch what you say or type from your phone, protecting your number is just as important. For tips on keeping your number itself safe, read our post on 9 places you shouldn't use your personal phone number.