How scammers can get control of your cell phone account with just one call

VIDEO: How scammers can get control of your cell phone account with one call

Out of nowhere, Dylan Simons phone was rendered useless. A scammer had control of his social media and some of his banking apps. And he had no idea how it was done.

“It’s very disconcerting, the fear of not knowing exactly what’s happening,” said Dylan.

Dylan was the victim of what’s called “port scam” or a “SIM swapping scam,” where bad guys hijack your cell phone account.

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It all started with a text one night from Verizon, saying his phone number was being transferred to a new carrier. Not sure if the text was a scam itself, he didn’t act. Next thing you know, Dylan and his brother’s phones were not working.

“I couldn’t use my phone anymore, he couldn’t use his phone anymore, and by the next day my mom and my step father couldn’t use theirs either,” said Dylan.

Since Dylan had his email addresses connected to apps on his phone, the scammers were able to take control.

“They got into my Venmo, they got into my Papal – anything that was connected to my Facebook or the email that I used  to sign into my Facebook, everything was compromised,” said Dylan.

Dylan explains there were three unapproved charges on his paypal account. Another family member says a thief tried to apply for a loan in their name.

“I don’t know what they are capable of. At that point I assumed that they have a god mode for everything and I just shut everything down,” said Dylan.

All you need to “port out”or move someone’s phone number to a new carrier are: the account holder’s name, account number, social security number, and mobile number. Federal Communication Commission rules require carriers to allow those changes as long as the person asking for it has that information. The problem is that scammers can get that information for just a few dollars on the internet.

But you can take steps to protect yourself by contacting your carrier and putting an administrative number lock on your phone.

“This means no changes can be made (including porting a number to another carrier) without you calling in to personally verify the transaction. In addition, consumers need to be vigilant about protecting their personal information. For instance, Verizon will never make an outbound request for customers to provide personal account information. So even if you see an inbound call that looks like it’s from Verizon, if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If you have questions, hang up and immediately dial Verizon’s customer service line at 1-800-922-0204 or *611 from your mobile device,” said Verizon’s public relations manager Heidi Flato in a statement.

This page from Verizon explains how to lock your account. Customers can also enable two-factor authentication.

Thankfully, Dylan’s family were able to have Verizon fix the mess in just a couple of days. Dylan was also able to reverse all fraudulent charges because he acted quickly.

“If I had been a victim of Coronavirus,” said Dylan, “even I think about, if I had been on a ventilator at that time, the last thing I’m going to be doing is checking my phone and checking my bank account.”