Cellphone nightmare leads to ported numbers, identity theft and fight for recovery

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Imagine this scenario: You’re going about your day, and suddenly you can’t make calls or send texts. Little did you know, but you’ve become the latest victim of a ported phone number scam, a devious tactic in which hackers hijack your phone number to take over your identity.

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Cellphone nightmare leads to ported numbers, identity theft, and fight for recovery

A woman talking on her cellphone (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

What is the ported phone number scam?

A CyberGuy Report subscriber contacted us to share that they’ve been a victim of a ported phone number scam. Also known as a SIM swapping or port-out scam, this is when a hacker steals a victim’s phone number to gain control over it. Once they have control, they use that number to commit identity theft by gaining access to their other accounts.

Cellphone nightmare leads to ported numbers, identity theft, and fight for recovery

A man typing on his cellphone (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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How hackers hijack your identity via ported phone number scam

Though there are several ways they may go about porting a victim’s phone number, one of the most common ways is to use your stolen personal information in order to call your mobile provider, pass their security checks, and once they are through, they request that the number be ported to a new carrier or transferred to a new SIM card that they have sent to them.

Once the scammer successfully ports the phone number, they receive all the calls and messages intended for the victim. This access allows them to bypass security measures like two-factor authentication (2FA) that sends a code via text message to the phone number associated with an account.

With this power, the scammer can use this method to reset passwords and gain unauthorized access to your personal accounts, whether it be a social media account, online bank account or another account. Once they continue to gain access to your other various accounts, there’s no telling what else they can do.

Cellphone nightmare leads to ported numbers, identity theft, and fight for recovery

Image of bank cards (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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How to protect yourself from ported number scams in the future

If you manage to pull yourself out of identity theft once, chances are you’ll do whatever it takes to ensure you don’t end up in that position again. All this being said, it’s important not to blame yourself. Scammers are very sophisticated, and they are always looking for ways to stay one step ahead of their victims. So, do what you can to stay one step ahead of them:

1) Secure your phone number: If you can take any extra measures to keep your phone number safe, don’t think twice. For instance, add a secondary security code or PIN on your Android or iPhone.

2) Enable two-factor authentication (2FA): This adds an extra layer of security to all of your accounts.

3) Secure your email account: Just as you would for your phone, add extra verification methods when possible and notifications if someone logs into your account from another device.

4) Secure your other accounts: Take the same measures for your other accounts, like your bank or social media accounts. For instance, ask to receive notifications every time there is activity on the account, so you can monitor it and quickly determine if that activity was made by you or someone else.

5) Limit who you give your number to: Be cautious about who you share your phone number with.

6) Consider using a secondary or burner number for online use: This can help protect your primary phone number.

7) Change your password: Use a strong password that’s more than 12 characters (if applicable) and a mix of numbers and upper and lowercase letters. Consider using a password manager to generate and store complex passwords.

8) Be cautious with emails: Don’t open attachments or click links in emails unless you are positive that they are safe. The best way to protect yourself from clicking malicious links that install malware that may get access to your private information is to have antivirus protection installed on all your devices. This can also alert you of any phishing emails or ransomware scams. Get my picks for the best 2024 antivirus protection winners for your Windows, Mac, Android & iOS devices.

How do you know if your identity has been stolen?

You might become aware of a ported phone number scam when your mobile service is unexpectedly interrupted because your number has been ported to a different carrier’s SIM card. Such incidents could escalate into full-blown identity theft.

A scammer might exploit one-time passwords (OTPs) – unique codes sent to your phone for security verification – to unlawfully access all the data on your device, including credit card details. This breach could result in you being barred from your own accounts.

When a scammer successfully ports your phone number to a different carrier’s SIM card, they can receive these OTPs intended for you. This allows them to bypass security measures and gain unauthorized access to your accounts, such as email, banking and social media, potentially leading to identity theft.

Regaining control of your phone number and securing any accounts that were compromised is often a difficult and lengthy process. This underscores the need for you to be proactive, protect your personal information and stay alert for any unusual activities on your accounts.

Cellphone nightmare leads to ported numbers, identity theft, and fight for recovery

Woman holding bank card (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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What to do if a scammer takes your identity

If you discover that your identity has been stolen – whether through this phone port scam or another type of identity theft – there are a few steps you should take.

Report the theft to your local police department: Some businesses may require a police report to remove fraudulent debts from your account.

Visit IdentityTheft.gov: This website helps you recover from identity theft. You can answer questions about what happened to you, get your Identity Theft Report and create a recovery plan just for you.

Contact your credit card companies: Inform them about the situation and follow their procedures for securing your accounts. You may need to close your current accounts and open new ones.

Check your credit reports: Look for any accounts or charges you did not make and report them.

Place a fraud alert on your credit reports: This makes it hard for someone else to open new accounts in your name.

Use an identity theft protection service: Identity Theft companies can monitor personal information like your Social Security Number, phone number and email address and alert you if it is being sold on the dark web or being used to open an account. They can also assist you in freezing your bank and credit card accounts to prevent further unauthorized use by criminals. One of the best parts of using some services is that they might include identity theft insurance of up to $1 million to cover losses and legal fees and a white-glove fraud resolution team where a U.S.-based case manager helps you recover any losses. See my tips and best picks on how to protect yourself from identity theft.

Cellphone nightmare leads to ported numbers, identity theft, and fight for recovery

Smartphone with sim card (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

MORE: HOW TO STOP PHONE NUMBER SPOOFING AND PROTECT YOURSELF FROM SCAMMERS

Kurt’s key takeaways

Unfortunately, once a scammer steals your identity, it can be very arduous to get it back. That being said, there are steps you can take to reclaim your identity while ensuring that your number doesn’t get ported again in the future.

What measures do you think mobile carriers should implement to prevent ported phone number scams? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

For more of my tech tips & security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter.

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