Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

The phone hacking scandal that led to the shutdown of a British tabloid has many wondering whether the same thing could happen in the U.S. The answer, apparently, is yes. Quite easily, in fact, if you have never set a password on your mobile phone’s voicemail.

This TechNewsDaily article describes the many ways in which a person might listen to your messages – and even erase them. EavesdcellAsianropping is illegal, so don’t even think about it.

Changing your phone settings to require a tougher-to-guess PIN when checking your voicemail will place a barrier between you and snoops.

UK tabloid reporters took advantage of default PINs. Many customers don’t change this standard number.

Here in the U.S., some wireless companies provide customers with the option of having no passcode at all on their voicemail accounts. "This option lets users check voicemail directly from their cellphones without the inconvenience of a passcode," explains TechNewsDaily. "But since the voicemail servers merely check to make certain you're calling from your own number, it means that anyone using phone-number-spoofing software can get right into your voicemail as well, as was revealed in 2005 when pranksters got into Paris Hilton's voicemail using that method."

(Spoofing caller ID is easy with Internet-based technology that allows people to appear they are calling from any number they choose.)

Do yourself a favor and stay away from “1234” and  “2580” (straight down a phone keypad). Those, as well as “5683” (the numeric equivalent of “LOVE”), made this list of the “Top 10 Worst iPhone Passcodes”.

While you're at it, you may want to change your smartphone's default e-mail address to block text spam. Your mobile phone comes with an e-mail address that allows messages to be sent to your phone from a computer. The default user name is usually your phone number. But you can change this by logging on to your provider’s website and configuring your account settings. Swap the phone number for another alias that spammers aren’t likely to guess but your friends will remember. For example: if your default e-mail is 5551234567@<domain>.com, you can change it to attorneygeneral@<domain>.com. Or better yet, choose something with a mixture of letters, numbers and symbols such as mckenna-17thag!@<domain>.com.

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