April 16, 2021

Do recycled mobile numbers inherit WhatsApp accounts from their previous owners?

It is recommended to unlink the phone number from the apps when it is no longer used.

Introducing a new phone number today means that you are probably that number has already belonged to another user before and, in case you have had it linked to digital services such as WhatsApp, could lead to a kind of inadvertent ‘hack’ from your conversations if you haven’t properly deleted it.

Telephone numbers are a finite resource that in Spain is managed by the National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC), and assigns a number of them to the different operators that, not to run out of numbers, they can resort to recycling by reassigning them.

The reassignment process grants a period of 30 days to the user after unsubscribing and not carrying the number. After that time, it is understood that you do not want to keep it and then the numbering is returned to the original operator.

In this way, the operator, based on his functions and needs, can decide to reassign the telephone number to a new user, as operator sources explain to EP.

From that moment, the new user of the number can start using it on their ‘smartphone’ and link it to digital services such as messaging applications. Nevertheless, if the previous owner has not unlinked their account, when you activate, for example, WhatsApp, the new may find himself facing conversations that are not directed at him.

This unauthorized and involuntary access to another person’s account is not the consequence of a wrong reassignment by the operators, but of the conditions of use of the applications or services, as indicated by the sources that, they assure, cannot It happens that two people end up using the same number after reusing it.

On its blog, WhatsApp explains that if the previous owner of the number did not delete their account, the new owner and his contacts may see the phone number in WhatsApp before activating the new account, as well as the profile photo and the information that belonged to that person.

It is also possible that the current owner will receive new messages from contacts who are not yet aware of the number change, but will not be able to access the conversation history.

The company assures that this is because “the old account was not deleted and therefore there is old information in the system“. In these cases, he explains that when they detect an activation in a new device after 45 idle, They treat it as “like a new account with a recycled number” and remove “the old account details such as profile picture and information”.

In the case of WhatsApp, the company recommends activating two-factor authentication, which adds an additional layer of security by requesting a PIN when the phone number is re-registered with the service.

However, similar situations can occur if the previous owner had registered the telephone number as an authentication element in a two-factor system for the accounts of other digital services – generally, he sends a password via SMS.

To EVITED these problems, Users must be clear that if they are going to leave a phone number, they must first unlink it from the different services in which they have registered it.

In the case of receiving a recycled number, the new owner can consult the numbering database on the CNMC website, and see when the number was originally assigned and to which operator.


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