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The Verification Thing

Why are companies sending codes to my cell phone?

Excellent question.

The verification code protocol is one way companies attempt to be sure you are you before they honor a request to change a password, unlock access, register a new device, or sign in to an important account.

When such a request is made, the company sends a text message containing a 6-digit code to your cell phone. You check your phone — which presumably a “bad guy” would not have — and enter that code in the space provided, assuring the company that it is you, the account holder, making an honest request.

It is not a perfect system, but it does offer you a layer of protection.

The key to this protocol is that you must already have your cell phone number registered to the account in question. You can’t just enter a cell phone number when you need to change your password. (What would be the point?). So, if a company you already use asks you to update your account information by adding your cell phone number, it’s not because they plan to call you to chat. (Of course, all regular warnings about giving out personal information to just anyone apply here).

You may not like this system, but it replaces — or at least is an alternative to — remembering answers to security questions. (Quick: what is the name of the food that your favorite dog ate before you drove away in your first car to get to your best job?) Yeah.