A new type of phone theft is on the rise. Instead of stealing phones directly from you, thieves pretend to be you to get brand new smartphones from your wireless service provider and settle the bill. Here's what's going on.
What is Account Hijacking?
The theft of smartphones is becoming increasingly difficult and less lucrative. We're more cautious with our phones than we used to, and more smartphones are offering encryption and lost phone tools right away, starting with the iPhone. So some criminals have adopted a new tactic. Instead of fiddling around with stolen phones and thinking about activation issues, they're posing as you and ordering new phones for your account.
The scam works for several reasons. The criminal can use all the phone deals your account is eligible for and pay as little as possible in advance (maybe nothing at all). You may not notice this until it's too late. Upgrading your existing lines is the more obvious method because your phones will stop working. Some criminals add new wires instead. This route may help you to see what happened when the next bill arrives. If you've set up your phone bill for automatic payment, you may be able to miss it longer.
In some cases, it's not about stealing phones. Criminals can upgrade their lines to get their number through SIM exchange. Your phone number will be transferred to a phone that will allow you to hijack any accounts based on your phone number as a recovery option.
How Criminals Abduct Mobile Phone Accounts
At this point, you might be wondering how a criminal can buy smartphones with someone else's account. Unfortunately, we have found more than one answer to this question.
Sometimes the offender steals your identity, creates a fake ID with your name and photo, and then goes to a retail store to buy the phones. You might think that the method could only be applied near your location, but as Lorrie Cranor, a former FTC chief technologist, has discovered, this is not the case at all. She found that her phones were off after someone who had left her in several states had switched their lines to new iPhones. Similar complaints can be found in the forums of the telephone companies.
In 2017, Cleveland police arrested three men after being linked to the theft of $ 65,000 mobile phones.
Simple phishing tactics play a role. In early 2019, Verizon customers in Florida received phone calls for alleged fraud. The agent told the victims that they needed to verify their identity, and Verizon would send a PIN. You would then have to read the person's PIN on the phone.
The person on the phone, however, was not a Verizon employee. It was the cheater the victim had just been warned about. In that case, the thief generated an actual Verizon PIN, probably using the account recovery process. When the victim received the PIN and handed it over, the criminal was given exactly the details needed to access the account and order new smartphones. Luckily, Verizon staff noticed other red flags and called the police, but that's not always the case. At the end of 2018, twelve people were accused of hacking into people's online accounts, adding or expanding lines, and then shipping the new hardware elsewhere. Before the police caught up with them, the perpetrators probably managed to get over $ 1 million worth of equipment. They used information acquired in the dark Internet because of data breaches, or in some cases sent phishing messages to steal account information.
What to do if your account is abducted
If you are a victim of account theft, you may feel that you can not do anything, but that's not true. You should not have to pay for a service you do not want and for phones you do not have. Get a pen and paper and take notes about the process. Make a note of the companies you have called, the date and time, and the names of the people you spoke to. Take notes of the statements of the company representatives, especially if they promise to take action or ask you to obtain further information or documents. The FTC has put together a helpful checklist and we will also cover some of these steps.
Call your mobile service provider first and explain the situation. Ask if they have a fraud department. If this is the case, ask for a bank transfer. Explain the situation and ask for help in solving the problem. Find out exactly what proof they need from you and write down everything. You should also ask if your account can be suspended and if you can add a PIN check (or other security measures) to prevent additional lines from being added to your account.
Next, add a fraud alert for all your credit accounts. You may also consider freezing your balance. Freezing the balance should prevent someone from opening a completely new account on your behalf. Unfortunately, this may not prevent the upgrade and fraud with additional accounts. Many telephone providers bypass a credit check to verify the billing history for existing customers. However, a credit freeze could prevent other types of fraud, so it's worth it.
When credit freezes, it's time to report the fraud to your local police station. Call or visit them and ask how to report the situation. Make sure you have evidence at hand, such as: B. Invoices from the added rows. Explain what happened and get a copy of all the documentation.
Contact your wireless service provider again for all requested documents (including the police report) and ask how you can cancel all fees if they have not already.  Prepare for this process to take some time – sometimes days or weeks. Keep a record of every contact and every step you take. This prevents you from repeating unnecessary steps and gives you a semblance of control over the process.
Preventing Account Theft
You can take action to prevent account theft from occurring in the first place (or again). Given the ease of identity theft, the primary goal is to create additional barriers. Thankfully, the four major carriers have options. While Sprint and Verizon require this additional security for all new customers, this does not apply to AT & T and T-Mobile.
If you are a Verizon customer, you should have set up a four-digit account number when you start the service. If you have not forgotten or forgotten your PIN, go to the company's PIN FAQ page and click the "Change Account PIN" link. Log in with your Verizon account when prompted.
Sprint also requires a PIN as part of a customer's account setup. So if you're at Sprint, you should already have one. Sprint also needs a security question as a backup and lets you choose from a list. Try to pick a question that's not easy to find in a Google search. If you forget your PIN, you can sign in to your online account and change it in the "Security and Settings" section.
AT & T customers do not need to set a PIN, but should do so. You must log in to the AT & T online portal. Look for two options: Request a new passcode and Manage additional security. You should go through these two processes. For additional security, AT & T simply asks AT & T to use it in other situations, such as: For example, when managing your account at a retail store, ask for your password.
By default, T-Mobile asks account verification questions to determine the identity. Instead, you can set up a PIN that you can only call. You can use 611 from a T-Mobile phone. T-Mobile offers two options: an account security PIN and a port-out PIN. They protect different things, so you may want to set both.
If you are using a service other than the four major providers, you should check its support site or call customer service to find out what security options you can set up and how to add them.
Once you've set your PINs, it would not hurt to call back in a day or two and see if they ask. The process is straightforward and you probably will not encounter any problems. The certainty and a bit of practice in using your new PIN is worth the time spent, especially if you find that an error has occurred and your wireless service provider has not set your PIN correctly.