When we think about protecting our personal information what often comes to mind is our social security number, date of birth, and account numbers – but what about our phone numbers? Unfortunately, as technology evolves so do the techniques of scammers trying to steal information. News has recently circulated of more frequent attempts at port-out fraud, and a new practice called SIM Swapping.
This technique can be used on both landline and wireless numbers. In port-out fraud, a scammer pretends to be the account holder, opens a line of service with a new provider, and has the phone number(s) transferred (ported).
This method can only be used on wireless phone numbers. Scammers pretend to be the account holder, and rather than switching the number to a different provider, they convince the current provider to transfer the number to a new cell phone – one that is in their possession. In both instances, scammers are able to take control of a person’s or business’ phone number(s) and intercept calls and texts. As soon as this happens, the clock starts ticking for them to “work” before a person realizes this took place. Since many payment services, banks, and businesses use automated calls and text messages to confirm identity (think of the verification messages with pin codes), scammers can gain access to accounts. They often change credentials immediately to prevent victims from being able to log in, and since communications are now re-routed, the victim is unaware and does not receive any activity alerts.
So how do we protect ourselves?
First, be careful with the information that you share. With the common use of social media, it’s easy to share information without realizing that you are sharing it. For example – is your date of birth public on your profile? How about your pet’s names, your maiden name, or a picture of the car you drive? This information is often what account security questions are asking. With a little scrolling and a few clicks, these answers can often be found on many social media accounts. Also, don’t be quick to answer calls and messages that you do not recognize. If you ever doubt the validity of a sender, hang up and call them back on a known number.
Secondly, find out what safeguards your providers offer. Make sure that you have your account secured with as many layers of protection as possible, with any passwords or passcodes not reflecting obvious information (ex. date of birth, anniversaries). Take advantage of email notifications if they are available.
To help protect our customers, Pineland offers a Port Freeze option for accounts, both business and residential. When a port freeze is activated on an account, if a request comes through to port a number to another provider, Pineland will contact the account holder or specified individuals to confirm the port is valid and verify an account passcode. There is no cost for this service. To add this protection to your account, contact one of our Customer Experience Associates during our regular business hours at 800.247.1266.