Most people know that you never give sensitive information like your Social Security Number and credit card numbers out over the internet unless you absolutely, positively trust a website 100 percent. That means it’s a website for a reputable company and you’re the one who went to the site using its direct URL. Even then, there should be a specific purpose for giving that information, like applying for a credit card.
Unfortunately, many of those same people give out their phone numbers without a second thought. I’m shocked at the number of my friends who post their numbers publicly on Facebook, and I constantly hear about others who plugged their numbers into random surveys that came as pop-up ads or websites offering jobs leads, insurance quotes, back to school advice, and other services, even though they’re not linked with any known, reputable business.
Here are two reasons why you should never give your phone number out on the internet:
1) You set yourself up for relentless telemarketing calls. I often read 800notes.com, a website that takes reports on telemarketers and phone scammers. It has reports of people putting their phone numbers on websites to request insurance quotes, college information, and loans and then getting phone calls from telemarketers literally within five minutes of submitting those forms.
The calls don’t stop, either. Even if you’re on the National Do Not Call Registry, you’ve just waived your protection by submitting the form, which gives the company permission to call you. Worse yet, it gets to sell your information to anyone and everyone it pleases, and they have carte blanche to call you, too.
Even if you put your phone number in a form and then close the web page before you submit it, it might still be transmitted to the company. Even though you didn’t click “submit,” shady firms still consider it an invitation to bombard you with unwanted phone calls.
2) You set yourself up to be scammed. Fake websites collect information, then use it to scam the people who submitted it. For example, if you’re looking for a payday loan and fill out an online application, you may have given your most sensitive date to a criminal.
I know people who have filled out applications on shady payday loan websites, only to get calls a few weeks later demanding payment for a non-existent loan. Worse yet, many of those people gave out not only their own phone number, but also the numbers of family members and friends as references on the fake application. Now those people are plagued by calls, too, in an attempt to embarrass the victim into paying. These fake “debt collectors” don’t follow collection laws because the loan is non-existent and the whole debt is a scam.
If you need to give out a phone number online, I recommend Google Voice. This free service gives you a phone number that you can transfer to your real phone or simply route permanently to voice mail. You can easily block telemarketers, and the service recognizes many common scam numbers and marks them as “spam” immediately. Meanwhile, your real phone number is safe from harassment by telemarketers and scammers.