Approximately 97% of U.S. adults own a cell phone. The 2020 Census states that there are approximately 258.3 million adults in the U.S., which equates to a whole lot of mobile numbers for carriers to keep track of. When it comes to company-owned phones, there can be several numbers that a company is responsible for. Most companies understand that mobile security needs to be part of their overall IT security strategy, but they are unaware of the risk associated with changing a mobile number.
Once you drop a mobile number, it quickly gets recycled and put back into the pool of available numbers that then get issued to new phone service subscribers. Some mobile carriers, such as T-Mobile and Verizon, will even post available cell phone numbers on their website.
Our phone numbers are no longer just for making and receiving calls. When you abandon a number and put it back into the pool of available one, you can be leaving yourself or your company at risk of a cloud account breach or identity theft.
What is Attached to Your Mobile Number?
There are several things attached to your mobile phone number that weren’t attached to landline phone numbers. You simply can’t treat them the same in modern day.
When you drop your phone number without properly changing multiple online accounts, you’re left open to a “number thief” that looks for recycled numbers to use for nefarious purposes.
Some of the many things that are attached to your mobile number include:
Text is one of the most popular ways to receive a multi-factor authentication code for accessing all types of online accounts. These can be accounts for online banking, business work tools, retailers with stored credit cards and more.
If you haven’t changed all the accounts that text an MFA code to your phone number, it can be the key a hacker needs to hijack your accounts.
Password Reset Links
Do you have your phone number set up for password resets? It would be simple for someone that has your old mobile number to reset your passwords and get into your accounts.
It’s not unusual for password resets to come to mobile numbers, as it’s considered more secure than email. It’s not that difficult for a thief to do a Google search on a phone number to quickly find the former owner’s email address and then try multiple sites using a password reset.
Banking alerts for transactions or deposits could also be coming to your old mobile number. If a thief in the area sees a large deposit, they may decide you would be worth robbing.
Package Delivery Notices
Package delivery notices from retailers also often come via text message. This a convenient way to know as soon as something is delivered. However, if you haven’t gone to shopping sites that you may have used in the past to change your number, a thief could know exactly when to swing by to steal something from your porch.
Other things we have attached to mobile numbers include:
- Doctors’ office appointment reminders
- Prescription refill notices
- School or work-related alerts
- Payment confirmations for auto-payments
How Much of a Problem Is This?
The problem with accounts still being tied to mobile numbers is bigger than you may think.
Princeton University conducted a study on the risks of recycling a mobile phone number. They researched 259 mobile numbers that were available to be used by new subscribers at two major carriers. The study found that 66% of them (171) were connected to accounts held with popular websites.
All researchers had to do was look up those numbers online. They found them attached to accounts such as Amazon, AOL, PayPal, and Yahoo.
Criminals use this same tactic to look for numbers they can get that may offer more PII (personally identifiable information) on the former owner that could then be sold on the Dark Web.
Another risk found was that it’s not hard to link mobile numbers to other personal information. This is especially true if it’s been breached, which is all too common as of recently. Researchers found that 100 of the 259 available mobile numbers were linked to login credentials that had been leaked online.
Do This Before Giving Up a Mobile Number
If you really need to drop a mobile phone number, here are some tips for securing its digital trail before you do:
- Change the number on all cloud app accounts and online accounts.
- Call service providers to change the number.
- Change the number with pharmacies and medical providers.
- Test the MFA alert on any sites connected to your bank account to ensure the code is coming to the new number.
Get Help Managing & Securing Your Mobile Devices
Mobile devices make up a majority of most business endpoints. Copperband Technologies can help your southern Kentucky or Middle Tennessee business put a mobile security plan in place that keeps your data and employees protected.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation! Call 931.263.8000 or email us.