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Criminals Can Steal Your Phone Number. Here’s How to Stop Them

With most of your bank details, credit card information and other vital data being linked to your mobile number, it is very important that you safeguard the same.

Your phone is used as a source of authentication. It is the easiest target for criminals thanks to the “port out scam” which is one of the biggest threats to the cellular industry today.

Understanding the port out scam

Also known as SIM hijacking, this scam allows the attacker to move your current number to a different carrier. Known as “porting”, this is a service that lets you switch to a new carrier without changing your phone number. With this scam, criminals receive all authentication messages to their phone and gain access to your personal information.

The attacker who has access to your personal information will call your current carrier pretending to be you. Once they have fooled the service provider into believing that it is you who is calling, all the messages and calls will be diverted to the new SIM. Since most mobile phone carriers try to make all services easy for customers, breaching security is quite easy for an attacker.

Stopping these port out scams

Each cellular service carrier provides certain avenues to ensure that you do not fall prey to this scam:

       AT&T: You can set an additional wireless 4-8 digit passcode online. You also have an extra security option online that will require you to use this code in more authentication processes.

       Sprint: You can add an online PIN that will be required when you need to port your phone number.

       T-mobile: Calling the customer service allows you to add a port validation service which is a new 6-15 digit passcode. This should be provided at the time of porting the phone number.

       Verizon: You can set a 4 digit account PIN online. You must also set a password for your My Verizon account online to use as additional security when porting your phone number.

       Choose other authentication methods

       One of the best options available is to avoid using the two step SMS authentication process that requires your phone number. Although it does seem like you have complete control on your number, portability has changed this completely.

       You do have other options such as the Authy App. These apps can generate codes for your online transactions. This is done on your cellular device itself. So, you are not relying on your cellular network carrier for the code. So unless the attacker has your device, he will not have any access to your security codes.

       However, you cannot completely avoid using your phone as your security option. Most online services require you to use your phone to provide an SMS verification. In addition to the other security measures, most of these services will use your phone as a secondary security measure or a backup.

       So, it is best that you call your network provider and compare mobile phones to understand the different measures to secure number porting to avoid any issues.

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