The Internet is a useful resource for information, and that’s both a good thing and potentially a bad thing. This is because data breaches and people-search sites can expose your number online, making you a target for con artists, telemarketers, and other annoyances, who use automated programs to find your phone number and attempt to scam or harass you as you go about your daily life. They may even use it to pose as you and potentially damage your online reputation. If you’ve had enough, here’s what you can do to remove your phone number from the Internet.
Change your number
The most effective, if annoying, way of stopping this from happening? Make the information on the Internet wrong. This may not make sense for small businesses and people who need to have a public line, but changing your number can be a powerful tool to erase your phone number from the web.
Don’t give out your number
The most effective technique? Don’t give out your phone number. Many people believe that signing up for do-not-call lists or getting an unlisted number puts these calls to an end, but the reality is that more often than not, these numbers are still contacted at least sometimes, and often over time they’ll be called more and more. Furthermore, less scrupulous businesses ignore do-not-call lists. So, don’t give out your number, or if you need to have a public number, use a service such as Google Voice to ensure that you’ve got control over who can reach you, keeping your phone number off the Internet
Be careful using Facebook
If you have a Facebook account, then your phone number may already be leaked online, as the company has a history of not protecting users’ information. Facebook’s most famous security breach was the Cambridge Analytical scandal of 2018. Later that year, hackers stole 30 million Facebook users’ email addresses and phone numbers.
Facebook’s latest data breach exposed the private cellphone numbers—as well as email addresses and account details—of 533 million people. Originally harvested in 2019, this data was recently discovered on a well-known hacker forum.
You can use the Dark Web Scan included with all of our privacy products to see whether your phone number was revealed in this breach. If it was, then you should be sure to watch out for any strange texts or emails asking for information or wanting you to click on a link. These are most likely attempts to scam you or steal your personal information. You can learn more about how to respond in our article “What to do if your personal information is exposed in a security breach.”
Check your apps
Your phone might be betraying you. Look at the permissions for each app on your smartphone, and you may find some apps are allowed to collect and transmit your phone number. This is especially true of free games, but it’s not uncommon elsewhere. Find and remove these apps where possible. Also remember that some social networking sites, like Facebook, may collect your phone number if you use their app on your phone. The best way to remove your number from online is to not use these apps at all, if possible.
Read the fine print
Another problem is that businesses and charities you provide your phone number to may have fine print that states that they’ll be selling your number, whether you want them to or not. Read the print closely before you put your phone number down on anything, to ensure that you’re not going to start getting calls from other “interested parties” a business might decide to “share information with.”
Be aware of public records sites
There are many websites that will collect public records, put them on the Internet, and charge a fee for access. These sites range from information for private investigators to sites that literally transcribe any record they can find and sell access to anybody that wants it. These sites can vary widely in their terms of services and overall ethics; it’s best to use a reputation service, like ReputationDefender, that specializes in contacting these sites and getting your phone number off the Internet.
Use the Internet against them
Possibly the most effective method is to use the Internet against sites that would promote your number and besmirch your online reputation. ReputationDefender can help you find and bury sites that are selling your phone number, or get your phone number removed from the Internet. So, if you want your private number to stay private, start with ReputationDefender.