We recently received a related email from Linda in Tampa, Florida. Here’s what she had to say about a phone number hijacking scam that suddenly targeted her.
Crazy situation, maybe you can figure it out. A few months ago, a person started using our phone number, applying for jobs, housing, loans, etc. I got a text message back to his request, which I answered as “wrong number”, but he went on to apply for other deals or care. We knew his name, we knew he lived in a small town outside of Tampa, and I even found him on Facebook. We couldn’t figure out why he did it, what his angle was. I’ve thought about changing my phone number, but I’ve had it for years and it would be a hassle. Can you figure out his angle and what’s the danger to us? Thanks!
Linda, Tampa, FL
Why this guy would use Linda’s phone number is of course confusing. I have a few theories triggered as to what his motives might be. Let’s dig into why people might be using your or someone else’s phone number, and what you can do to take action.
Why would someone use my phone number?
One possibility, though unlikely, is that the person using your phone number mistook it for theirs. Another possibility is that a stranger has used your phone number by mistake, either due to a typo or mistake on their part, or due to a similar number. They may have intended to use their own phone number but entered your number by mistake. The person may also have deliberately used a fake phone number to avoid detection or for other malicious purposes.
However, one of my main thoughts is that someone might use your phone number as part of a fraudulent scheme. For example, a scammer might use your phone number to apply for a loan or housing, then disappear without paying back the loan or paying the rent. This could put you at risk of being contacted by creditors or other individuals seeking repayment.
Or, they may use your phone number to answer calls or text messages from people they think they are contacting them, and then try to scam those people.
Another possibility that someone is using your phone number is that it could be part of a scam. For example, a scammer might use your phone number to apply for a loan or a job under a false identity…and if the scammer’s actions are illegal, this could put you at risk in a number of ways.
What should I do if I know my phone number has been compromised?
Regardless of the motive, no one should use your phone number for any reason except yourself. Here are some tips you can follow to protect yourself and your phone number in the future.
- To contact the authorities: Let the police and your phone carrier know that your phone number is being used continuously without your consent and see how they can help you end this situation.
- To change your phone number: While it might be a bit of a hassle, putting your safety at risk is far worse than the inconvenience that changing your phone number might cause you. Consider changing your phone number to end this invasion of privacy.
How to get a free second phone number and stop bothering calls
What if I give my personal information to scammers? What to do next.
If you have inadvertently shared your personal information with scammers, here are some next steps if you become a victim of identity theft.
- View bank statements and checking account transactions See where unusual activity starts.
- report any violations Official government agencies such as the FCC.
- Consider seeking professional advice from a lawyer:
Before you talk to law enforcement, especially if you are dealing with an identity theft crime If you are the victim of an identity theft crime, you will not be able to get a job or housing.
- Before talking to law enforcement, especially when dealing with identity theft crimes
- If being a victim of criminal identity theft prevents you from getting a job or housing.
- Alert all three credit bureaus And potentially put a fraud alert on your credit report.
- conduct your own background check If this is how you find out that your information has been used by criminals, ask for a copy.
- Using Fraud Prevention Services: Identity theft companies can monitor your personal information, such as social security numbers, phone numbers, and email addresses, and alert you if it’s being sold on the dark web or used to open accounts. They can also assist you in freezing your bank and credit card accounts to prevent further unauthorized use by criminals.
Some of the best parts of using an identity theft protection service like my #1 choice include identity theft insurance to cover losses and legal costs, and a white glove fraud resolution team with case managers in the US who can help you recover any losses.
Go to CyberGuy.com/IdentityTheft to learn more.
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If you are a victim of identity theft, it is important to take immediate action to mitigate the damage and prevent further harm.
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