Criminals can hijack your cellphone with illegal 'porting' technique

A new type of identity theft is allowing hackers to take over cellphones without the owners even realizing it's happening.

Phone porting is a legal service, but thieves are using it to hijack unsuspecting victims. Porting allows customer to keep their phone number if they switch to a new carrier, but the Better Business Bureau says a growing number of criminals are contacting mobile providers pretending to be someone else.

They convince cell providers a number needs to be transferred to a new phone and once they have control of the number they start intercepting text authentication messages from banks, credit cards or other companies.

The BBB says there are some things you can do to protect yourself from illegal porting:

  • Ask your wireless provider about port-out authorization. Every major wireless carrier has some sort of additional security for accounts or for porting authorization that customers can set up, like a unique PIN, or an additional 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, and texts in response to two-factor authorization requests.

If you think you have been the victim of illegal porting you should contact your mobile provider immediately.
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