Protect Yourself from Port-Out Scams

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person securing a phone from scams

Mobile phones not only contain our personal details and information about everyone we know; they are used to verify our identities and unlock access to our financial accounts.

Now scammers are using a process called a 'port-out' to hack into our phones to change our passwords, steal our personal data and even empty our bank accounts.

Basics of a Port-Out Scam:

A port-out scam starts by manipulating the legitimate process you can use to move your mobile phone number from one carrier to another. A scammer calls a carrier and impersonates you to request that your mobile phone number and SIM card data be transferred to a new carrier and device owned by the scammer.

Once the scammer successfully ports out your number in this way, they are often able to use it as leverage to gain access to your bank accounts. That's because like other online accounts, banks will respond to requests to change your password by sending the new password or a PIN to your phone.

Once the scammer uses a ported-out phone to change your passwords, not only are you locked out from accessing your accounts, but the scammer can now begin emptying them.

How to Protect Yourself

The key security vulnerability of the port-out scam is with the mobile phone carrier. When a customer calls to request changing their phone number to another carrier and device, the carrier will ask them to provide a PIN number. For some U.S. carriers including T-Mobile, the default PIN has been the last four digits of the customer's Social Security number.

You may have heard that last year more than 143 million Americans had their data exposed in a hacking security breach at the credit reporting agency Equifax. The information exposed included names linked with phone numbers and Social Security numbers. In other words, everything a hacker would need to try a port-out scam.

Recently, T-Mobile sent text messages to customers warning them to change their PINs. It also set up a port-out protection page.

No matter what carrier you use, it's worthwhile updating your security information and PIN. It can take only minutes and it may avoid the devastating consequences of this scam. Make sure that the new PIN you choose is different from your carrier account password.

Here are the pin protection links at the other three major U.S. carriers: AT&T, Sprint, Verizon


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Disclaimer

The information in this article is written as accurately as possible and to best of the writer's knowledge. However, there may be omissions, errors, or mistakes. Because of this and changes in circumstances, the information in this article is subject to change. This article is for informational purposes only and should not serve as professional, financial, medical, emotional, and/or legal advice. Readers may rely on the information on this article at their own risk, but they should consult a CPA, financial expert, or other professional for advice. Givilancz & Martinez, PLLC reserves the right to change and handle this article series, and therefore, may remove or alter any part of this article or the comments section. Any comments inserted by readers are not the responsibility of G&M PLLC and do not represent the thoughts or ideas of G&M PLLC.