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Scammers Are Taking Over People's Phone Numbers, Better Business Bureau Warns

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It seems like every week there's a new scam on the rise, but a cell phone porting scam is unlike anything else we've ever heard before. According to Better Business Bureau (BBB), it's a new way for criminals to try to gain access to your finances and identity — in a somewhat roundabout way.

Here's how a cell phone porting scam works: The scam artist finds out your name and cell phone number and then tries to learn as much personal info about you as possible. Then, the imposter contacts your cell phone provider and pretends to be you, informing the rep on the other line that your phone was stolen and asking the rep to "port" your phone number with a different provider and cell phone. In some cases, the scammer might even go so far as to buy a new phone in person, in order to speed up the process.

A cell phone porting scam is just as scary as it is strange; once the scam artist goes through all the trouble of stealing a phone number and pretending to be another person, he or she then uses your number on a new device to get access to other accounts. The whole idea behind a cell phone porting scam is to enter hard-to-reach accounts such as financial institutions and tax preparation software, which usually require more steps to enter — including security codes and verifications directly sent to a person's phone.

Luckily, there are ways to protect yourself from becoming the next victim of a cell phone porting scam — straight from the BBB — and you'll definitely want to take notes:

  1. Ask your cell phone provider about port-out authorization. Major wireless companies offer some form of extra security for accounts — such as a unique pin or a verification question. Setting this up ahead of time will make it trickier for a scammer to port-out your phone.

  2. Keep a sharp eye our for an "emergency calls only" status on your phone. If you notice your phone suddenly shows this status without your prior knowledge, call your mobile phone company immediately. The status changes whenever your phone number has been changed to a different phone.

  3. Watch out for any strange or unexpected communication you receive on your phone — or anywhere else. Red flags include any alert messages from financial institutions or text messages in response to two-factor authorization requests.

If you suspect that you've become a victim of a cell phone porting scam, alert your mobile provider and financial institutions as soon as possible, and be sure to file a report to BBB.

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