Cell Phone Account Fraud: What You Need To Know

Here's what you need to know to protect yourself.

Hackers have found yet another a new way to get your information and your cash, and the source is probably just inches away from you right now: your cell phone. Learning what it cell phone account fraud is and how to prevent or recover from it will help you protect yourself.

How the Scam Works

The latest scam is known as the port-out scam or the SIM-swap scam. Fraudsters obtain their victim’s personal information, such as name, phone number, address and even just the last four digits of a Social Security number. Thanks to numerous recent data breaches, thieves can cherry-pick these details.

Armed with this info, the scammer contacts a victim’s mobile carrier and opens a new account in the person’s name. The key here is that they will “port” the number, transferring the victim’s existing phone number to the new, fraudulent account or request a new SIM card for your account and use it in their own device.

Cell phone numbers are an essential key to providing security for many types of accounts. Crooks use the victim’s phone number as verification for everything from bank and credit card accounts, to social media profiles, to email accounts and more. They work quickly, garnering as much information and money as they can before their victims even realize they have been targeted.

How To Know If You Are A Victim

A handful of occurrences may mean you you have been a victim of this cell phone account fraud.

  • Your mobile phone abruptly stops working.
  • You are unable to log in to personal accounts because the passwords have been changed.
  • You have unexplained charges or withdrawals from your bank or credit card accounts or on your cell phone bill.

What You Can Do

Before it happens to you, take steps to protect yourself.

  • Establish a password or PIN with your mobile carrier that is required before making changes to your mobile account.
  • Freezing your credit information will prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name, although it will not likely thwart scammers who attempt to open a new cell phone account in your name.

If you believe you are a victim of the port-out scam:

  • Contact your mobile carrier right away.
  • Report the fraud to your bank, credit providers and credit bureaus.
  • File a report with your local police department and state Consumer Protection office.

[h/t: Consumer Reports]