Do you know how many people in the world have your phone number? Yeah, there’s definitely been a ton of random people in bars to whom we’ve all handed out our numbers (cheers, guys!), but now think about all those times you’ve given out your phone number online to be part of a survey or mailing list or to get a deal on a shopping spree. Now think about all the apps that use your phone number as log-in info. Hundreds — if not thousands — of people probably have your number. Maybe this doesn’t seem like *all* that big a deal to you, but just consider everything that your phone number can be used for.

Exchanging numbers during a date

These days, your phone number could be just as valuable as your social security number. Your 10 digits can be used to “monitor and predict what you buy, look for online or even watch on television,” according to the New York Times. And what’s worse is that your phone number is not a legally protected piece of information. Unlike your social security number, companies can give out your phone number as they please. But the scariest thing of all is that when phone numbers are leaked, they can be the first key in identity theft. Just think of all those verification texts you get when you forget your password. If a hacker has your phone number, they could easily weasel their way into your online accounts. Eek!!

So, in order to protect yourself, you should consider either using an email address as identification, buying a landline, adding a second number to your mobile or just guarding your phone number as intensely as you guard your social security number. Or you can just drop off the grid for the rest of your life. Whichever makes you feel safest.

How often do you give out your number? Let us know @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)