Photo (cc) by Johan Larsson
It works like this… If you want to access your own voicemail, you can simply dial your own number from your phone, press star or pound, and your voicemails will start playing. So if I want to access your voicemail, all I have to do is make the phone company think I’m calling from your number, and your messages will start playing for me.
Services like SpoofCard make it all too easy to do just that. About $5 buys 25 minutes of talk time, with a twist. Customers can set the number that shows up on caller ID to whatever they want. To hack your voicemail, I’d simply tell SpoofCard to fake your phone number for me. Then, when I call your number with the service, your phone company assumes I’m you and starts playing your messages.
Fortunately, preventing this kind of hack on your voicemail is as simple as changing your voicemail preferences to always require a PIN. Simply follow the not-as-complex-as-they-look instructions for your cell provider:
To enable a password for all voicemail calls:
- Press and hold 1 to call into the voicemail system from your wireless device.
- Press * to skip to the main menu.
- Press 4 for personal options.
- Press 2 for administrative options.
- Press 1 for password options.
- Press 1 to turn password on or off.
- Press 2 to turn password on.
- When prompted, enter your 4- to 15-digit password, then press the # key.
- Access your voicemail account from your Sprint phone.
- Once in the main menu, choose change personal options.
- Next, choose administrative options.
- You will hear skip passcode is currently turned on. To turn it off, follow the prompts.
- The passcode you originally created will be played to you. Be sure to remember it, as you will need to enter it to gain access to your voicemail in the future.
To turn off / on your voice mail password security, follow these steps:
- Call your voice mailbox from your mobile phone by pressing and holding the 1 key or by dialing 123.
- Once you arrive at your voice mailbox, press the Star (*) key to ensure you are in the main menu area.
- To access the password security menu, press the 5 key.
- To toggle your password on or off, press the 2 key.
Verizon is the one major cell carrier in the U.S. that requires you enter your PIN every time you access your voicemail. In fact, you have to jump through a little hoop if you want things set differently. So odds are, if you’re a Verizon customer, you’re already safe from this kind of attack on your voicemail.
Change Your Default PIN
But you’re only as safe as your PIN. If you’ve never set up a PIN for your voicemail account, you might have a default one; anyone could dial in from any number, use the default PIN, and listen to your messages. To keep your voicemail private, you should set up a PIN or change your default PIN as soon as you can.
If you set your PIN to something simple, like your address or birthday, you’re not completely at risk, but you are close. Try to use something unique that has no connection to your personal life. It doesn’t have to be hard to remember – something like 7676 works well – only unrelated to you. Taking this simple step can help make sure your private messages stay that way.