You may find this surprising. Many of us remember when people's names, addresses and phone numbers were listed in the telephone book and distributed for free. All we ever worried about were junk mail, telemarketers and the occasional prank call.
Times have changed. Phone books are now history. You can message anyone you know (or don't) on Facebook, Twitter or other means. And most importantly, your phone number is a gateway to your primary means of communication, entertainment and safety. Once your number is compromised, it's far more intrusive than ever before.
Spam texts and robocalls
Every year or so, a hoax burns like a wildfire through email inboxes and social networks warning that all cellphone numbers are about to go public. It also says there's a deadline to register your cellphone and, once registered, it only blocks your number for five years.
Oddly enough, the only thing the hoax message gets right is the number to call. For the record, mobile telephone numbers have never been in any danger of being made public or released to telemarketers. Additionally, there has never been a deadline to register your cellphone. And you don't need to renew every five years (this was a rule for landlines that was axed in 2007).
If you get an unsolicited marketing call on your cellphone, first ask the caller how they got your number and firmly tell them you don't want to be contacted again. If they call back, file a complaint with the FTC at donotcall.gov or 1-888-382-1222.
But these days, many companies find it cheaper, easier and more profitable to send advertisements by text.
You may also receive a host of "robocalls," pre-recorded messages that automatically play when you pick up. With so many cellphone numbers being collected in databases, companies have a massive list of potential customers.
Remember that texts, robocalls, and telemarketers may just as likely be scammers in disguise. Use extreme caution when answering these messages, and never give away personal data. Click here to learn how to stop telemarketing calls for good.
Better yet, you can install apps on your phone that keep annoying telemarketers off your line. Click here for three apps that protect you from tele-predators.
People know it is you calling when your caller ID pops up on their phone, but it doesn't have to be like that. There are two ways to keep your identity secret while making a call: one is permanent, the other is temporary on a call-by-call basis. Here's a tip that covers both methods.