T-Mobile Phone Number Port Out Scam Can Affect All Mobile Phone Users
Alert: T-Mobile Phone Number Port Out Scam Can Affect All Mobile Phone Users
As an organization dedicated to providing comprehensive IT support to our customers, we try to notify our clients of vulnerabilities we uncover in our efforts toward mobile security services and the prevention of cybercrime. To protect your organization and its clients, please take note of the following security bulletin:
If you're a T-mobile phone customer, you're probably aware of a recent cell-phone scam the phone company notified its users of last month. While T-mobile customers were primarily targeted in this most recent attack, any individual with a post-paid (rather than pre-paid) cell phone can be targeted. Here's how the scam, called the "phone number port out scam," works:
A hacker armed with a fake ID walks into a cell phone store (or calls customer service), and, pretending to be you, requests a new SIM card for your phone number. Once he receives it, he pops it in to any phone and uses it to access your bank account and other key records (we'll get to how that works in a bit). In a variation of the same port out scam, a hacker contacts your phone company and, again impersonating you, requests that your phone number be transferred or "ported," as it's termed in the industry, to a new phone provider.
Why the Phone Number Port Out Scam Matters
So, why is it such a big deal if your phone number is stolen? Sure, it's obviously a big inconvenience, but why is this something we focus on as part of our cybercrime prevention efforts? The reason the phone number port out scam is such a concern is because your phone number is a unique piece of information that's increasingly being used by banks, credit-card companies, e-mail providers, and a variety of other service providers to confirm your identity.
Some service providers will verify your identity automatically, using technology to electronically confirm that the incoming number the hacker uses to contact them (usually, to request account changes) is the one they have recorded as being associated with your account.
More commonly, though, a hacker will change your account passwords using this number as a form of identity verification. In this scenario, the hacker would use the "Forgot Password?" link located on a provider's account login page. Once that button is clicked, your service provider will, in many cases, send a text message with a code the number they have on file for you in order to verify your identity before they allow you to change your password. The hacker receives the code, provides it to the service provider, and-voila!-then changes your password.
The Ramifications of a Stolen Phone Number
Once a hacker changes your password, you're locked out of that account, while your hacker can do whatever he likes, whether it be to transfer money out of your bank account or, even worse, gather all your personal details, such as your social security number, address, date of birth, and more. Armed with your personal identifying information, a hacker can assume your identity. He can open bank accounts and credit cards, receive medical care, purchase a vehicle, get a new cell phone, and more - all using your name.
Suffice to say, being a victim of the phone number port out scam can have very serious consequences. And once your identity has been stolen, repairing all the damage that can be done - often in a very short amount of time - can take months. In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission, "recovering from identity theft takes an average of six months and 200 hours of work."
Protecting Yourself from the Phone Number Port Out Scam
Okay, so, now that you know how serious this is, what can you do about it? Here are a few tips:
1. Know that every major wireless carrier has established a form of additional security for porting out your phone number. Some will create a unique pin for you to provide in the event you do request a port-out, or they'll add a verification question you'll need to answer before you're allowed to port over your number to a new carrier. Each provider has their own form of security, and it's not always automatically included in your account's security features. If you want to add port out scam security to your account (and you should!), contact your provider to inquire about this feature.
2. Be aware that if your phone suddenly switches to "Emergency Call Service Only," or otherwise stops working properly, you should immediately notify your cell-phone carrier.
3. Be on the lookout for any sort of attempt to obtain your personal identifying information. Don't open suspicious emails or click on links in text messages from numbers you don't recognize. Update passwords frequently, using best practices for strong password creation.
Protecting Your Entire Organization from the Effects of Cybercrime
Here at ICS, we work every day on the prevention of cybercrime, and we specialize in securing the technology used relied upon by small businesses like yours. Contact us today to discuss ways to prevent the phone number port out scam from impacting your business, as well as how we can increase all your technology's security, from cell phones and computers to networks and servers.
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