Normally when I am open for changes in my career I update my CV on some carrier or professional networking portals like LinkedIn, Indeed.com etc.

If something interesting comes up through a recruiter then first we exchange a few messages and if it sounds like the position could be a good fit for me then I exchange my phone number / Resume with that person for a first chat about it. So I have recently started to look for a change.

Random Recruiter Contacts claiming prior contact on LinkedIn

Few days ago a headhunter contacted me claiming we chatted before on LinkedIn, it sounded little suspicious as I couldn't recall his name or the positions he wanted to introduce me to. I was skeptical and disinterested but said Okay I would think about it but I need to check if we really had contact on LinkedIn before.

I Checked LinkedIn

So I checked my LinkedIn out of curiosity and could see not a trace of message from that recruiter in my entire history of messages.

Random Recruiter calls again

The same guy calls me few days later and starts talking non stop about the positions again in which I didn't have much interest anyway. Well again this time my first question was - I tried finding a message in your name on LinkedIn but couldn't find any, could you please share how you got my number? at this point he started to get pissed and started to show his frustration by saying how irritated he was at this question....but I maintained my stand that I want to know how someone gets hold on my private info such as phone number and email address without my prior consent, at this point he started to trash talk.("stop treating me like a dog"* and so on..)


Now my question is, is it wrong to ask about the source of data where the recruiter found my personal Info? What if its case of stolen data, should it be reported to concerned authorities?

  • How do you know he has your resume? As far as we can tell from your post, he clearly has your phone number, but are you sure he has your resume?
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 23:43
  • If he does have it, then he probably got it, and your 'phone number' from the company database, which may not have a field for "where we got this from"
    – Mawg
    Commented Feb 27, 2020 at 6:30

5 Answers 5


Here's what I think everyone else missed.

You asked where he found your information, he gave an answer that didn't hold up to casual scrutiny. You asked a bit harder, explaining that his original answer didn't hold up well...

... and he lost his religion and started trash-talking.

This is a HUGE Red Flag. Something is wrong. You now know that you have very good reason to doubt his bona fides.

Terminate the call, and the relationship.


Now my question is, is it wrong to ask about the source of data where the recruiter found my personal Info?

No, there is nothing wrong in asking that. Some people may take it nicely and others not. Seems this recruiter was the latter.

What if its case of stolen data, should it be reported to concerned authorities?

I think saying it's "stolen" is going a bit too far... Most likely someone gave them your contact (with or without your consent), or you posted your information somewhere online (perhaps even from LinkedIn, or your Facebook), or you gave someone your presentation card, etc..

There are many ways this person could have obtained your number. Also, chats could have been deleted for reasons, and thus why you didn't find it.

Now, I think we are missing the point a bit here.

If this recruiter is offering you jobs that are not of your interest, simply politely thank for the opportunity, decline, and move on.

No need to waste more time with this recruiter by seeking to ask where he got your info. In a way, it is a bit understandable that the recruiter got upset, as you are basically implying that he "stole" your contact and are also wasting their time.

  • 4
    Well going by the fact that I was called on my private number which I never put online or on my visting card, which if compromised can lead to identity thefts of all kinds as 3D security from bank applications, facebook, gmail logins are conencted with phone number these days...It can be a reaosn of concern for anybody actually.
    – Anirudh
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 5:58
  • 1
    @Anirudh well change the number, you haven’t given it out or put his number on the blacklist...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 13:25
  • 2
    @Anirudh If you are looking for answers from the perspective of security, as opposed to professional conduct which this answer addresses, you could try rephrasing the question over at Information Security.
    – Summer
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 22:23

You are not wrong to be concerned; and I agree with DarkCygnus that the simplest solution is to quickly decline the offers and move on.

On the other hand I think it's important and valid to try and keep control of your personal data.

If you are in the EU, you should be able to request all the data they have about you under GDPR; this would include how they obtained your phone number. The penalties if they fail to comply can be extremely steep.


There are two possibilities here.

First, the recruiter got your information in a normal and above-board way. (Maybe recruiter A, leaving company B, gave it to a replacement C, who took it to company D when changing jobs, and later shared it with recruiter E who you don't know and who works at a company you've never heard of. Maybe this recruiter recently placed your friend F in a job and F gave you as a reference. Maybe you called somewhere about a free trial of some software or training, and they recorded your number, and gave it to the recruiter. Lots of ways.) Like many recruiters, they know almost nothing about you. They're taking a quick chance pitching a few jobs at you, expecting a "quick no" where you say you're not interested in changing jobs now or you're not a programmer. Occasionally you will be interested in one of their suggestions, or will say "none of those interest me but I would be interested if you had an ABC job" and if they have one they will tell you about it. For this kind of recruiter, your "where did you get this number?" response really throws them off. It's not the conversation they planned to have, and they're in a hurry. They don't really care about you, they are just trying to get their opportunities in front of as many people as possible. If you imply they "Stole" your number or did anything bad, they could easily react angrily and yell and swear. They live a high pressure life with a lot of rejection, and one win can bring them in a lot of money - a month or two of your salary in some cases. So emotions can run high.

For this kind of recruiter you will gain absolutely nothing by asking "where did you get this number?" They don't know. They don't care. They have a file on you but it doesn't include that information. Asking can only upset them or end the call, and you can end the call any time you like, so asking is pointless.

Second, the recruiter did something dodgy to get your number. They bought a sign up sheet from a user group that included private information that wasn't supposed to be revealed. They're running a bounty program where they share some of their commission with people who bring them great leads. That sort of thing. They know you wouldn't normally be available to recruiters, and they think they're going the extra mile finding you. Typically these recruiters have a better match in the jobs they're offering than you described, but it's possible whoever provided your info didn't know you very well.

When you ask this kind of recruiter "where did you get this number?" they know the answer, but they are NEVER going to tell you. That would jeopardize whatever they've got going on to find hot leads nobody else can find. Asking is, once again, pointless.

You could try reporting to the authorities but I think they are unlikely to consider "a phone number I rarely give out" as information deserving of the same kind of protection as a national identity number or the like. Shrug it off and move on. Complain to your friends about invasive recruiters bothering you at inconvenient times, and not even knowing the kinds of positions you would consider. Perhaps feel a little private pride that you're worth pursuing. Wherever they got your number, they are offering something you don't want. You know how to decline such things quickly and politely. Do that.

  • 2
    So flipping out their job frustration on me, just because I asked how the got access to my private data it justified?? An X person may react whichever the way they like but if in future my identity gets stolen, at least I wouldn't be all that clueless.
    – Anirudh
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 5:40
  • 2
    Your identity is not stolen because someone has your phone number. And yes, there are people in this world who are rude for a variety of reasons including their job stress. You won't cure them by demanding answers to unexpected questions. Just stop talking to the recruiter. Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 12:29
  • 3
    I am not really sure if your understand the problem here, curing them is least of my concerns, all I am concerned about is my private data,,,as a professional recruiter you must be able to explain the source of such private data. Sorry but totally disagreed with this answer.
    – Anirudh
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 12:37
  • read this -> nextadvisor.com/…
    – Anirudh
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 12:39

Any time you post your resume online, assume that the information is going to be scraped and added to online databases that recruiters can pay to subscribe to. All that the recruiter knows is that your information is in their database, not necessarily where it came from.

The lie that this was a continuation of a LinkedIn conversation is enough of a red flag that I, personally, would hesitate to continue communicating with that recruiter.

It's a good practice to customize the email addresses you use for every iteration of your resume that you post online. Most major providers allow you to add a plus tag to the end of your email to filter and sort mail by; for example I had my resume up on monster.com for two weeks until I realized it didn't align with my career goals, but it took more than eight years for me to stop getting email messages addressed to [email protected] You might also want to have tailored plus tags on the addresses on tailored resumes, this immediately lets you make certain assumptions about what type of position the recruiter might be trying to slot you into, and see how outdated the information they have about you is. (I've had several career shifts; someone contacting me from a ten-year-old resume is unlikely to be offering a position that is a good fit.)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .