Thieves are increasingly stealing people’s phone numbers in a new scheme known as “porting” or “port-out scamming.”
A phone porting scam involves criminals knowing a few pieces of personal information about you and having your number “ported” to another service provider.
If a scammer knows your phone number, name and other data, they can impersonate you by calling your mobile service provider and take total control of not only your phone — but in some cases your identity.
What you need to know about cell phone porting scams
Cell phone number porting can have numerous consequences: Once a thief has ported your number to another service provider, they can tap into other accounts of yours that require codes or a text sent to your phone. That means your bank accounts, email service and more could be at their fingertips in no time.
Mobile service providers are doing what they can to alert their customers about the scam. Recently a member of Team Clark received a message from T-Mobile about porting scams. It read:
“Fraudsters are attempting to compromise personal bank accounts by gaining access to your wireless account,” the message said. “They do this by guessing common security PINs, such as birthdates, sequential numbers (e.g., 12345678), or repetitive numbers (e.g., 11111111).”
Phone porting scam: How to tell if you’ve been victimized
You may be wondering how to prevent or stop this scam. First, you need to know how to detect it. One tell-tale sign that you’re being victimized is if your phone suddenly switches to “Emergency Call Service Only” or something close to it. If you see that, call your mobile phone service provider immediately.
According to the Better Business Bureau, when you see this message about emergency calls only, “That’s what happens when your phone number has been transferred to another phone.”
Phone porting scam: How to protect yourself
If you have reason to suspect that you’ve fallen victim to phone porting, what you want to do at that point is protect yourself from identity theft and fraud.
Contact your mobile service provider and change your account security PIN and/or security question. Here are instructions on securing your accounts with the major providers:
AT&T: AT&T encourages its customers to add all “extra security” measures like two-factor authentication to their wireless accounts. Follow this link to do that.
MetroPCS: Call 1-888-8Metro8 if you suspect a port-out scam. You can also change your PIN and security question answer by logging into your account or by calling Metro PCS Customer Care at 1-888-863-8768.
T-Mobile: T-Mobile is encouraging customers to set up a new PIN/passcode, as well. This is in addition to your MyT-Mobile password. You can call their Customer Care team at (1-800-937-8997) or go to any T-Mobile retail store.
Sprint: Customers can change their 6- to 10-digit PIN by signing on to Sprint.com and going to the My Preferences tab. If you don’t know your PIN, you can answer your security question when calling Sprint at 1-888-211-4727 or visiting any Sprint retail store.
Verizon: You can change your four-digit account PIN, which verifies your identity, by contacting Verizon at 1-800-922-0204 or going to vzw.com/PIN. You can also change your password after you sign in to your My Verizon account online or with the app.
Other security measures you can take…
Contact your bank and other financial institutions to let them know of your ordeal so they can pay special attention to any suspicious activity on your account.
If you haven’t already, freeze your credit. Money expert Clark Howard’s Credit Freeze Guide will walk you through the steps.