Using your cellphone number as primary contact poses privacy risk

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Finance expert Erica Sandberg juggles calls all day, every day. So, whenever she is asked for her phone number, it's all about her cell.

"The reason I do use it as my primary number is because it's the one I always have with me," Sanderberg said.

But she doesn't just give it out to friends and clients.

"It's pervasive right now," she said. "Every single time you sign up for something, you're going to be asked for your personal information and very often that includes your primary phone number, which for most people these days is the cellphone number."

Phone numbers on forms aren't new. But the Federal Trade Commission's Robert Schoshinski said today's mobile landscape is different. Whereas landlines change if you move and are associated with everyone in a household, cell numbers may stay with a single person for life.

"And what that means is that the number will be linked to the individual and can be sort of an identifier to tell people how to link other information to that individual," Schoshinkski said.

Think of it this way. Every time you sign up for something or shop online, you fill out information. In some cases, terms and conditions may allow that information to be shared or sometimes even sold to third parties.

"Once you've linked a cellphone number to an individual's name or profile, you can link all sorts of other information that a data broker may have," Schoshinkski said. "So, for instance, online browsing habits, online shopping habits, in-person shopping habits."

That information can be used for marketing or even sold again to others interested in the compiled information.

Sandberg said she'll now think twice before giving out her number.

"I'm certainly concerned about it and it has made me pause before just randomly writing it out or supplying it on an online form," Sandberg said.

Copyright 2017 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

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Gary Harper
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With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

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He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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