Protect your floors, but protect your phone first!

I wanted to write about protecting your floors. However, I was recently a victim of a phone hijack. Hijacking phone numbers is a high tech crime that is on the rise because perpetrators can intercept your phone number easily from miles away.  Once the crook has obtained your phone number, obtaining new credit cards by assuming your identity is a breeze with your phone number in their possession.  Not only are the data and account information on your phone in jeopardy but also the phone hijacker has greater credibility to establish new lines of credit by verifying security codes sent to your phone number.  If you are scratching your head to fathom how your phone number can be stolen without it being physically taking it from you, you can learn vicariously from me. 

When this happened to me, I had several glitches with my phone and within two days my phone was inoperable.  The hijacker quickly got into my Paypal account, Facebook and established new credit cards and made several transactions.  All the while, I was combating credit card companies and service providers to decimate the new charges accruing under my name and my email address. 

Unfortunately, I was unaware of this kind of porting phone scam until I became a victim of this crime.  I feel remiss if I did not make other people aware of how to take preemptive measures to ensure it does not happen to them.  Below are a few suggestions to prevent your phone number from being in a phone port scam. 

This is how porting a number works:

Porting a number to a new provider shuts off the phone of the original user, and forwards all calls to the new device. Once in control of the mobile number, thieves can request any credit card company or service like Paypal to send a one-time code via text message or an automated call to the
the newly stolen phone number to their activated device.  Porting normally occurs when upgrading to a new phone which allows one to take their phone number with them when they change phone carriers. Unfortunately, porting is available to crooks.

In these cases, the fraudsters can call a customer service specialist at a mobile provider and pose as you, providing the things that identify you; like name, date of birth, social security number and other information. Often this is enough to have your calls temporarily forwarded to another number, or ported to a different provider’s network. 

The hijacker simply pretends to be you and requests a new SIM card for your account. They get the SIM, they get access to your number.  And since only one SIM card can be attached to a number at any given point, it effectively disables your current SIM card. The end result is that your phone is disabled and someone else has your number as their own.

How to Protect Your Phone:

1. File a police report within your city and the city of the phone hijacker.  Usually, the address and IP address of where the hijacker is located will be made known to you from the fraudulent credit cards the hijacker started. 

2. You should do a factory reset but do not use a backup to set your phone up or you may import the hackers ability to get into your phone from your backup. So before you do a factory reset go onto a computer and change your Google account password as you need to regain control of your accounts first. Hackers will know your passwords for everything so you cannot use any of them again.

3. Call your phone service provider to add a security PIN to your account. The process is going to be different for every carrier, but this PIN will be required to make changes to your account, which includes porting your number to a new carrier or requesting a new SIM card. Thus, it secures your account against both port-out and SIM swap scams.

4. Put a security freeze and credit report lock to make credit bureaus aware of identity theft.  Or just keep a security freeze on your credit until you need to unlock it. 

More information on the following links:

https://about.att.com/sites/cyberaware/ni/blog/porting

https://www.equifax.com/personal/education/identity-theft/fraud-alert-security-freeze-credit-lock/

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