This is from Police Major Armando Aguilar, Miami Police Department:
Our mobile numbers are increasingly being used as a way of validating our identities online. You may have bank, utility, social media, or other online service accounts where you have set up “two-factor identification,” which is an excellent security feature. Two-factor identification essentially means that aside from your entering a password to access your accounts online, you opt to receive a text message with a unique PIN to the mobile number on file with the service provider every time you log on and/or change your password. This second layer of protection means that it’s not enough for identity thieves to hack your password to access your accounts. They also need to be in physical possession of your cellular telephone (remember, each time you attempt to log into an account, the PIN sent to your mobile number is unique and, thus, will not work for future login attempts). Enter the ever-resourceful identity thief who has found a vulnerability in the system.
T-Mobile is now alerting their customers of an industry-wide phone number port-out scam. Here’s how it works. An identity thief, armed with your personal information (name, date of birth, Social Security number, address, and–most importantly–your mobile telephone number), walks into a cellular telephone store, pretends to be you, and asks for a new SIM card. That’s it. Your mobile number was just “ported” (i.e., switched) to the thief’s telephone. Thieves are also pulling this off by, again, pretending to be you, ending your current cellular service, and “switching” cellular service to a new provider. The thief now has your personal information and your mobile telephone number, which he will use to “verify” your identity when stealing from your personal accounts. Here’s what you can do to prevent being victimized: contact your cellular provider immediately, and set up a “port validation passcode” for your mobile number and every other number on your account. This passcode is a PIN that will be requested of you before your telephone number is ported to a new mobile device or a new service provider. The whole process will take minutes and may save you a great deal of time, money, and anguish if you were to become an identity thief’s next target.
For more coverage of this scam, please visit https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/gy8bxy/t-mobile-text-warning-phone-hijacking-number-port-out-scam. Remember, your identity is the most valuable possession a thief can steal from you, so be sure to always take the necessary steps to safeguard it! For more tips, please visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft. Thank you!