Here's How a Stolen Phone Number Can Lead to an Empty Bank Account

Mobile phones are much more than gadgets to contact someone. We use these devices to shop online, to share our moments on social media platforms, to check our banking account’s balance, to play mobile games, navigate while on vacation or in an unknown area, verify login procedures, and so on. One could say that all our lives are in our mobile phones, which is why it is vital to make sure they are secured. It looks like never letting your device out of sight, using only safe Internet connections, and installing security tools to protect it is not enough to guarantee the safety of your phone and all that can be accessed through it. Apparently, there is a scam called phone porting, during which hackers steal your phone number by transferring it to a new SIM card. If you have not heard about phone porting yet or wish to learn more about it, we invite you to read the rest of this blog post.

What is phone porting?

Phone porting is a scam during which cybercriminals hijack their victims’ phone numbers. Yes, you read it right, hackers no longer need to gain access to your mobile phone or steal it. It is enough to transfer your phone number into a new SIM card. Thus, attackers do not necessarily have to be from the same city or area.

Since such scams involve transferring a phone number onto a new SIM card, they are also called SIM card swapping. Usually, cybercriminals who attempt such attacks gather information about targeted victims and contact chosen phone companies. They may claim that they need a phone number to be transferred into a new SIM card because the phone has been stolen or for some other convincing reason. Naturally, major phone companies know about such scams and train their employees to recognize phone porting scams, so it is not that easy as it used to be when no one yet knew about phone porting. However, there are lots of phone companies that may not be as careful as others when they get requests to transfer a phone number onto a new card.

Of course, it might not be enough to know a phone number alone to succeed in phone porting. Mobile companies may ask for personal data like billing address, birthdate, Social Security number, and so on. Nonetheless, you should know that just like victims’ phone numbers such information can sometimes be found on the dark web. There are a lot of ways how sensitive information can end up on the dark web. Some users may accidentally give it away while interacting with unreliable pop-ups, filling fake surveys, or participating in fake lotteries and giveaways.

Also, let us not forget that lots of private and sensitive information is leaked during data breaches every day. According to BreachLevelIndex.com, approximately 71 records are being lost or stolen every second. Therefore, it is not that difficult to gain sensitive information that could be asked when requesting to transfer a telephone number to another SIM card. Consequently, it is not that easy to stop phone porting.

What may happen if hackers take control of your phone number?

There is no doubt that hackers steal phone numbers to gain access to victims’ accounts. Many of us now use Two-Factor authentication to protect our social media platforms, email accounts, etc. Out of convenience, lots of users choose to receive verification codes either to their email accounts or mobile phones. Thus, you can imagine how valuable it could be to control someone’s telephone number. It might enable cybercriminals to access various user’s accounts, including his banking account. Needless to say, in such a case, hackers may empty your bank account and cause other troubles. Access to a victim’s email address could also provide cybercriminals with various opportunities as many users tie other accounts to their email address. Consequently, the thought of hackers stealing phone numbers should scare all of us.

How to protect yourself from phone porting?

It might seem like there is nothing to be done to protect oneself from phone porting, but, in reality, there are some things you can do. Some phone companies allow their customers to employ various safety precautions. For example, a user could set a password that would be requested in case someone tried to make any changes, such as transfer his phone number to a new SIM card. If you did not know about such safety measures before, we highly recommend contacting your phone company and asking about it.

Another thing we advise doing is being careful when giving out your telephone number or other sensitive information, such as your email address. You should always provide your data only if you have to. Not to mention, it is crucial to make sure that the details you provide will not fall into the wrong hands. Also, it would be smart to avoid interacting with unreliable pop-ups, emails from unknown senders that may ask to load suspicious links, fill some forms, etc.

Lastly, keep in mind that scammers could call you and pretend to work for your phone company if they need some information they do not have yet. Such behavior should raise suspicion right away as reputable companies do not call consumers to ask for their sensitive or private information.

What to do if you think you became a victim of phone porting?

Researchers say that the first sign that you are experiencing phone porting is loss of service. If it happens suddenly and there is no explanation for why it happened, you should notify your phone company and your bank right away. Also, it would be smart to monitor your accounts that could be accessed with your phone number. If you still have control over them, you should change the stolen telephone number at once. Next, it is essential to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission or institutions alike.

All in all, phone porting is not a new scam, but since cybercriminals still use it, we believe it is crucial to not forget about it. What would be even better is to take all necessary precautions to ensure you will not become a victim of phone porting. Also, it would not hurt to memorize the tips we mentioned earlier for what to do if hackers steal your phone number so that you could react quickly and minimize the damage.

August 21, 2019

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