We recently received a concerning email from Linda of Tampa, Florida. Here’s what she had to say about a phone number hijack scam that targeted her out of the blue.
Crazy situation, maybe you can figure it out. A guy started using our phone number a few months ago, applying for jobs, housing, loans, etc. I get texts answering his requests with offers, which I answer as “wrong number” but he continues to apply for other deals or care. We know his name, we know he lives in a small town outside Tampa, I even found him on Facebook. We can’t figure out why he’s doing this, what is his angle. I’ve thought of changing my phone number, but I’ve had it for years & it would be a hassle. Can you figure out his angle & any danger for us? Thanks!
Linda, Tampa, FL
It is certainly confusing as to why this guy is using Linda’s phone number. I have a few theories being triggered as to what his motives could be. Let’s dive into why people might use your or someone else’s phone number and what you can do to take action.
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Why would someone want to use my phone number?
One possibility, though it is unlikely, is that the person using your phone number mistakenly believes the number to be their own. Another possibility is that the stranger is mistakenly using your phone number, either due to a typo or error on their part or due to a similarity in phone numbers. It is possible that they intended to use their own phone number yet mistakenly entered yours. The person also could be intentionally using a false phone number to avoid detection or for other malicious purposes.
One of my main thoughts, however, is that a person might use your phone number as part of a fraudulent scheme. For example, a scammer may be using your phone number to apply for a loan or housing and then disappear without repaying the loan or paying rent. This could potentially put you at risk of being contacted by creditors or other individuals seeking repayment.
Alternatively, they may be using your phone number to receive calls or texts from individuals who believe they are contacting them and then attempting to defraud those individuals.
Another possibility for someone using your phone number is that it could be part of a scam. For example, a scammer may be using your phone number to apply for loans or jobs under a false identity… which could put you at risk in a number of ways if what the scammer is doing is illegal.
What do I do if I know my phone number is being used fraudulently?
Regardless of the motive, no one other than yourself should be using your phone number for any reason at all. Here are some tips you can follow to protect yourself and your phone number in the future.
- Contact the authorities: Let the police and your phone carrier know that your phone number is continually being used without your consent and see how they can help you put an end to it.
- Change your phone number: Although this might be a bit of a hassle, having your safety put at risk is much worse than any inconvenience that changing your phone number might cause you. Consider changing your phone number to put an end to this invasion of privacy.
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What if I gave my personal information to a scammer? What to do next.
If you unintentionally shared your personal information with a scammer, below are some next steps if you become a victim of identity theft.
- Look through bank statements and checking account transactions to see where outlier activity started.
- Report any breaches to official government agencies like the Federal Communications Commission.
- Consider getting the professional advice of a lawyer:
Before speaking to law enforcement, especially when you are dealing with criminal identity theft
If being a victim of criminal identity theft leaves you unable to secure employment or housing.
- Before speaking to law enforcement, especially when you are dealing with criminal identity theft
- If being a victim of criminal identity theft leaves you unable to secure employment or housing.
- Alert all three major credit bureaus and possibly place a fraud alert on your credit report.
- Run your own background check or request a copy of one if that is how you discovered your information has been used by a criminal.
- Use a fraud protection service: Identity Theft companies can monitor personal information like your Social Security number, phone number and email address, and alert you if it is being sold on the dark web or being used to open an account. 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 pick include identity theft insurance to cover losses and legal fees, and a white glove fraud resolution team where a U.S.-based case manager helps you recover any losses.
Learn more by heading to CyberGuy.com/IdentityTheft.
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If you are a victim of identity theft, the most important thing to do is to take immediate action to mitigate the damage and prevent further harm.
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