Port-out scams involve fraudsters exploiting the process of transferring a cell phone number from one carrier to another by using phished or stolen account information to carry out the port without the authorization of the phone number’s true owner.
After successfully gathering information about a cellular account (acquired either directly from the victim via phishing or found online), a scammer, posing as the phone number’s true owner, takes the victim’s information to another carrier and requests to port the number to a new account and cell phone. The scammer will then report the victim’s phone as lost or stolen. If the cellular carrier does not require a security PIN number or passcode, or the scammer passes any identity verification measures, the scammer may successfully port the number to a new device and carrier without the victim’s knowledge, shutting down his or her own phone’s cellular service. The scammer, now with exclusive access to the victim’s phone number, can potentially gain access to the victim’s online accounts via two-factor authentication (2FA) codes or keys texted directly to the phone number. This can happen fast, with little time for the victim to stop it or contact anyone for help.
HOW TO IDENTIFY THREAT:
If you find your smartphone suddenly stops making calls or sending texts, or says “Emergency calls only,” your phone number may have been stolen and ported out. Immediately notify your carrier. Report Scam Activity: Report any scams you encounter to local police, your cellular carrier, the Federal Trade Commission, or the Better Business Bureau. Keep a record of any information given to you or sought by the scammer.
HOW TO PROTECT AGAINST THIS THREAT:
Many carriers require account PIN numbers or other verification information to port out numbers or give out new SIM cards. However, if the PIN is a birth date, zip code, the last four digits of a social security number, or any information that is easily gathered, scammers can still quickly gain access by trying them all. There are databases online that anyone can log into and find current address, full name, the names of potential victim’s relatives, and more. Just by being aware of the dangers of hacking and by being smart about sharing information, consumers and businesses can protect themselves from a port-out or SIM hijacking scam.
Some tips for protecting yourself from port-out scams and SIM hijacking scams include:
Below is a list of websites where you can file complaints about internet-related scams, fraud, and crime. Just don’t forget to call your cellular carrier and local police first.