My phone number was found on the dark web — What do I do?

Maciej Bartłomiej Sikora
Content Writer
Phone number found on dark web

Recognizing the dark web threat

The dark web remains one of the most mysterious parts of the internet. You may have heard of it and have a general idea of what it is, but you might be surprised by its size and the extent of its illegal activities. Dark web markets, for instance, are vast virtual spaces where hackers, cybercriminals, and shady characters trade all sorts of illegally obtained digital items. These include driver's licenses, passports, ID cards, credit card details, bank statements…. and even phone numbers.

Right now you might be wondering — why would anyone try to sell my phone number on the dark web? The answer is pretty simple: to use it for illegal activities such as scam calls, identity theft, or fraud, so that it ultimately leads to making illegal profits.

The problem is that most people don’t even know their phone numbers and other personal information is for sale on the dark web. So, as Jeff Daniels’ character said in the pilot episode of “Newsroom”: “The first step to solving a problem is recognizing there is one.” Therefore, every online user should check if their data — including phone numbers — is on the dark web, and here’s how you can do it.

How to find out if your phone number is on the dark web

Some people think checking if their personal information, like their phone number, is on the dark web is complicated and requires finding a way to get inside the dark web. In reality, however, it's quite easy — provided you have the right tools.

Today, many breach monitoring platforms and dark web scan services can check if your data is for sale on the dark web. However, not all of them can check for phone number leaks. Therefore, it's important to choose a data breach scanner or monitoring system that includes phone number checks along with credential and email breaches.

With the right tool, finding out if your phone number is on the dark web is pretty straightforward. You simply enter your phone number into the application, and the tool scans the dark web for matches. Then, you just need to check whether the result is positive or negative.

What can happen if your phone number ends up on the dark web?

When the results are in, and it turns out that your phone number is indeed on the dark web, you may feel a little unsettled. In that moment you need to remember that you are not the only person this has happened to. Unfortunately, phone number theft is quite common these days, affecting millions of users each year, and often, it is very difficult to prevent.

What can worry you is what cybercriminals will do with that stolen piece of information. Sadly, there is quite a lot they can do with it. If cybercriminals get a hold of your phone number via the dark web, they can use it to:

  • Send scam messages, make scam calls, or even blackmail you.

  • Try to take control of your mobile device.

  • Steal even more information about you.

  • Use the 2FA codes sent to your mobile phone to access your email or online accounts.

Can you remove your phone number from the dark web?

We’re sorry to say that, realistically, you cannot remove your stolen phone number from the dark web. Removing it from a traditional surface website would be difficult enough — with the dark web, it is almost impossible. Additionally, the dark web has no technical support you can contact about these matters, and trying to reach the perpetrators could make things worse as it may put you in the spotlight for cybercriminals.

What to do if your phone number is on the dark web

Since you cannot remove your phone number from the dark web, the question is — what actions can you take to mitigate the risks? Luckily, there are a few things you can do to prevent cybercriminals from taking advantage of your stolen phone number. These include:

Reject all suspicious calls and SMS messages

If your phone number gets compromised, you must be super vigilant about any unsolicited communications you receive. If a call or message seems suspicious, do not respond or provide any information. And if you’re worried that you will reveal your private data by mistake, remember you can always block spam numbers or use call-blocking apps to reduce the risk of falling prey to phishing attempts.

Use multi-factor authentication (but not SMS-based)

If your phone number or other sensitive data appears on the dark web, you need to take steps to secure your online accounts. Start by enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA). Use app-based authenticators or hardware tokens instead of SMS-based methods, which are more vulnerable to interception and SIM-swapping attacks.

Create strong passwords for your online accounts

If your phone number linked to your online accounts gets leaked, you need to act fast and change your account passwords immediately. Just make sure your new passwords are complex, unique, and difficult to crack. Use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters, and avoid reusing passwords across different sites.

SIDE NOTE: You can always use our password generator to quickly create new strong passwords for your online accounts.

How to prevent your personal information from ending up on the dark web

When discussing ways to prevent data from being leaked on the dark web, we cannot emphasize enough the need to use really strong passwords for all online accounts and services. However, it’s not only about using strong passwords but also keeping them in a safe place, preferably an encrypted virtual space to which no unauthorized third parties can have access.

You can address both of these issues with a tool such as NordPass, which is an advanced yet easy-to-use password manager that allows you to generate strong passwords on the spot and then store them in an encrypted vault. It also enables you to autofill credentials quickly for fast and secure logins, as well as share sensitive data safely with the people you trust over encryption-protected channels.

Additionally, NordPass offers a feature called Data Breach Scanner that allows you to easily check if your email address and credit card details have been compromised in a breach. By providing this tool, NordPass offers a comprehensive platform for addressing the threat of the dark web on multiple fronts. So, if you're looking to enhance your cybersecurity and, as a bonus, improve your productivity, be sure to give NordPass a try.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How can my phone number end up on the dark web?

Your phone number might end up on the dark web through data breaches from websites or companies where you've shared your contact details, often due to weak security or cyberattacks. Moreover, if you've unintentionally posted your number on social media or other public platforms, it could be gathered by data scrapers and later traded on the dark web. Once there, your phone number could be sold to spammers, scammers, or other malicious parties for various illicit purposes, like phishing or identity theft.

Should I be worried if my information is on the dark web?

While having your information leak via the dark web can be concerning, it doesn't necessarily mean immediate harm. Thousands of data breaches occur each year, involving millions of users worldwide. However, not all of them become targets of cybercriminals. Of course, this doesn’t mean you won’t be targeted — you can be. Therefore, it's crucial to take proactive steps to safeguard your identity and finances. This includes monitoring your accounts, changing passwords, and considering identity theft protection services.

Can changing my phone number solve the problem?

Changing your phone number can help reduce unwanted calls and spam messages from cybercriminals. However, it won't entirely eliminate the risk since other personal information, like your email address, might also be exposed. Therefore, you must monitor your accounts for suspicious activity and take additional security measures, like using a robust password manager and enabling multi-factor authentication.

How likely is it for my information to be misused if it's on the dark web?

If your personal information ends up on the dark web, its misuse depends on its value and how well it's protected. Though not all data shared via the dark web is exploited, once it's there, it can be used to make you a target of a cyber-attack. Therefore, you need to stay vigilant and implement strong security measures to help keep your information safe from the dangers of the dark web.

Is it safe to continue using my accounts and devices after such an incident?

If you experience a data breach security incident, you must take the necessary actions to secure your accounts and devices. Depending on the severity of the breach, you may need to change passwords and implement additional security measures such as multi-factor authentication. This is to say that continuing to use your accounts can be safe once you've implemented the right security measures and are confident that any vulnerabilities have been addressed properly.

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