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Consumer Advocate: Protect cellphone and the information it has about you | Business

New IdentityTheft Scam

You protect your Social Security number. You shred important documents when you’re done with them. You take steps to protect yourself and your family from identity theft — but what about your cellphone? Your cellphone holds a myriad of information: your passwords, your banking information, your email and social media accounts. If scammers can access your phone, that information becomes a rich playground for them.

The Better Business Bureau first saw cellphone porting scams two years ago, but the problem is getting worse. A recent report from a Canadian farm family shows how scammers can empty a bank account when cellphone accounts are stolen. This scam, called porting or port-out scamming, helps scammers sidestep two-factor authentications and other security measures.

The scam starts when a scammer gets ahold of your name and phone number. They will then try to gather as much personal identifiable information (PII) as possible about you, which includes your name, address, Social Security number, date of birth and anything else that can be used to steal your identity.

Pretending to be you, they will then contact your mobile service provider. They claim your phone has been stolen and ask to have your number “ported” to another provider or device. In some cases, they may buy a new phone to make a sales representative react quickly and skip some verification procedures.

Once they have your number on a new device, they can start accessing and gaining entry to accounts that require security codes texted to your number. Those often include email accounts, social networks, tax preparation services and banking accounts.

BBB offers these tips to help protect yourself from this specific type of scam:

• Ask your wireless service provider about port-out authorization. Every major service provider has some way to set up additional security for your accounts or authorization for port-outs. For example, having a unique PIN or a verification question will make it more difficult for someone to port-out your phone. Contact your provider directly and ask them about porting and/or port-out security on your account.

• Watch out for unexpected “Emergency Calls Only” status. Call your service provider immediately if your phone suddenly switches to “emergency call service only” or something similar. That’s what happens when your phone number has been transferred to another phone.

• Be vigilant about communications you receive. Watch for phishing attempts, security alerts from financial institutions or other accounts, or texts in response to log-in attempts that need two-factor authorization.

If you’ve fallen victim to this type of scam, immediately contact your mobile service provider, financial institutions, and law enforcement. Also, BBB encourages you to file a report on BBB Scam Tracker and warn others if you’ve become a victim, whether or not you have lost any money.

For more tips to keep your identity secure, visit bbb.org/identitytheft. The importance of being vigilant cannot be overstated. These identity thieves will stop at nothing to get what they need.

Marjorie Stephens is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Northern Indiana. Contact the BBB at 800-552-4631 or visit www.bbb.org.

Source: on 2020-02-14 05:52:30

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