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Watch out for the cellphone porting scam

Watch out for the cellphone porting scam
© Diana Eller | Dreamstime.com

The battle against cybercriminals is always evolving. That's because when we catch on to their scams they change them up to find more victims.

Which is why we're always having to come up with more secure ways of protecting our critical information. Can you imagine the damage that could be done if a hacker is able to get access to sensitive data on your smartphone?

Well, there's a new scam dubbed porting going around that would do just that.

What is a porting scam?

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning Americans about a fairly new scam making the rounds. It's known as a porting or port-out scam.

(Note: Don't confuse this with a SIM card swap scam, it's not the same thing. Click here to learn about SIM card swap scam.)

It works like this. A fraudster finds out critical information about you such as your name, phone number, Social Security number, date of birth and more. Much of this information is obtainable on the Dark Web thanks to the massive Equifax data breach that we learned about last year.

Once the criminal has this information they call your mobile phone service provider pretending to be you, and tell them that you're switching to another company but want to keep your phone number. Transferring your number from say Verizon to AT&T is a process called porting.

The porting process takes up to 24 hours to complete. During this time both phones will be functional. Meaning, any text messages that you receive on your phone will also be seen by the scammer on the phone your number is being transferred to.

This opens the door for all kinds of problems. If you have two-factor authentication set up on your bank accounts, or any online sites for that matter, the scammer will be able to get the code needed to log into your account. From there, you could become a victim of identity theft and even have money stolen from your bank accounts.

Now, don't let this turn you against two-factor authentication. It's an important security feature that you should be using whenever possible.

The problem isn't two-factor, it's the criminals trying to rip you off. There are ways to prevent falling victim to these types of scams, keep reading for suggestions.

How to protect your gadget

Porting scams are relatively new, which is why the BBB is warning people about them. Here are some of its suggestions to protect against porting scams:

  • Inquire with your wireless provider about port-out authorization - Every major wireless carrier has some sort of additional security for accounts or for port-out authorization that customers can set up, like a unique pin, or add verification question, which will make it more difficult for someone to port-out your phone. Contact your mobile provider and speak to them specifically about porting and/or port out security on your account.
  • Watch out for unexpected "Emergency Calls Only" status - Call your mobile phone company 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 out for phishing attempts, alert messages from financial institutions, texts in response to two-factor authorization requests. (PssT! Take our phishing IQ test to see if you can spot a fake email.)

If you've fallen victim to one of these scams, alert your mobile provider, financial institutions and take the standard steps to combat identity theft. You should also help warn others by filing a report on BBB ScamTracker.

In other smartphone problems, this newly discovered Apple flaw could freeze your gadget

Living in a digital world can be frightening with all of the cybercriminals out there. Data breaches, phishing attacks, and ransomware are just a few things that we always need to be on the lookout for. Having your gadget impacted by a scammer is bad enough on its own. We definitely don't need people who we know messing with them. That's exactly what could happen with this newly discovered Apple flaw.

Click here to find out how a simple text message could freeze your gadget and how to unlock it.

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