Have you ever wondered how telemarketers get your number? Well, chances are, they probably find it online. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones who have your number.
If your phone number is online, it’s highly likely that it has been bought and sold at least once alongside more of your personal data. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture the kinds of people who’d buy that sort of information.
When a hacker gets ahold of your phone number, it becomes far easier for them to impersonate you and sign into your online accounts. And if someone gets ahold of your phone number along with other personal data, like your name and date of birth, they can even call your provider and ask them to “port-out” your number onto their sim card. When this happens, a hacker can make calls and texts as if they were you.
This situation sounds scary, and it is. Robocalls scam about 1 in 10 Americans annually, to the yearly cost of almost $10 billion. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to minimize the risk of your phone number appearing on the internet. Read on to find out how to remove your phone number from the internet.
How Does Your Phone Number End Up On the Internet?
Personal phone numbers aren’t just dumped onto Google en masse. Your phone number was, and likely still is, posted somewhere on the internet deliberately.
The first step to removing your phone number from the internet is figuring out where it is and how it got there. Here are some of the places to start looking.
Social media sites
You’d be surprised how many people list their phone number directly on their Facebook page. If you’re one of them, remove your number and other personal information from Facebook (and other social media sites and online accounts) today.
That being said, it isn’t uncommon for personal data to leak from social media sites in other ways. Whether through data hacks or privacy malfunctions, private data from 465 million hacked Facebook accounts was recently sold on the dark web.
People often accidentally give smartphone applications explicit permission to collect and distribute your phone number to third parties.
If you suspect that you’ve made this mistake, look at the permissions you’ve enabled for each of the apps on your phone. If you find that you’ve given some apps permission to collect and transmit your phone number, disable this permission immediately. Take a careful look at free games — they’re notorious for this.
Even when you don’t give apps permission, your data can be leaked in other ways, such as when an app is hacked.
When it comes to data privacy, you might be your own worst enemy. In fact, your number may have been posted online by none other than you!
Have a look back through any ads you might have placed on places like Craigslist or eBay. In some cases, you may have previously listed your phone number along with your name.
How to Remove Your Phone Number From the Internet: Everything You Need to Know
Now that you’ve figured out how your number ended up on the internet in the first place and made sure that those virtual doors are shut, it’s time to try and remove your phone number from the internet for good.
Opt-out from people-search and background-check sites
If you’re lucky, you might find that your phone number is listed on a website that allows you to opt-out of your data being shared or distributed to third parties.
With most people-search and background-check websites, this is solely a matter of filling out a form. However, some data collection sites make the process a little more difficult, going so far as demanding a photo of your driver’s license.
Get in touch with the site owner directly
Not all sites give you the option to opt-out, though. If your phone number appears on a private website or blog, you’ll need to contact the site owner directly. If you’re not sure who owns the site, try doing a Whois search to get the contact details for the listed owner.
Unfortunately, the legal obligation for websites to remove your private information is usually absent, so your results might vary.
If you do manage to get your phone number deleted, but it still appears in Google search results, make sure to ask Google to remove outdated content.
In most instances, Google won’t remove your personal information from its search results. Instead, they recommend that you contact the site owner, as explained above.
However, in certain circumstances, such as when your number is being posted in a malicious way or in a manner that may harm or “dox” you, Google will take action. In cases like these, Google may potentially delist a site that hosts your number from its search listings. If Google does this, your number will no longer appear when someone searches for it on Google.
Unfortunately, Google can’t remove your number from someone’s website, so it’ll still be visible on the site that hosts it. Your phone number will also still come up in search results if someone uses a different search engine, Like Yahoo or Bing.
Get professional help
If your phone number appears on Google, it’s easy for hackers to violate your privacy. Getting professional help in the form of a subscription-based service like DeleteMe is often your best option. Getting help now might save you a lot of money in the long run.
DeleteMe scans the web for your phone number and other personal information every three months and coordinates requests to delete it. It also sends customers detailed reports to let them know the types of personal information they found online.
Your Phone Number Is Valuable. It Pays to Keep It Private.
The best way to stop your number from appearing on the internet is to make sure that it never gets there in the first place. The only way to do that is to practice safe data hygiene and ensure that you never share your phone with any applications, websites, or ads.
Instead, use a masked number or a throwaway number or email address. If you’re ever uncertain about whether it’s a good idea to share your phone number or not, don’t.
If the horse has already bolted and your number is online, there are some things you can do to remove it.
However, the only way to give yourself a good chance of deleting your number off the internet completely is to use a service like DeleteMe. DeleteMe will do everything to remove your phone number off the internet. More importantly, it’ll also make sure it doesn’t reappear.