Upstate couple warns of identity theft after hackers ported their phone numbers | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

(WSPA) – Identity theft can upend your life as you know it.  Any victim will tell you it takes countless hours to try to get your life back.

In this 7NEWS Consumer Exclusive, we examine why it’s so crucial to take key steps to guard your identity now and to act fast if something looks wrong.

Phone porting scam

Terri and Bob Phillips, in Greenville, had to deal with mounting stress when hackers ported Bob’s phone number, accessed his iCloud and cloned the phone.

“Once they got that then they’re you,” Bob said.

When Bob’s phone stopped working, Terri got an alert from their bank.

“I was afraid that they would drain the account,” she said.

“In addition to getting a debit card through Truist, they were able to get a new American Express credit card…It was overnighted, and of course, I paid the overnight fee,” Bob explained.

However, it didn’t stop there.  The Phillips got an AT&T bill for the new phone service on their ported number.  Plus Bob was locked out of his Social Security account after all the failed login attempts.

Then a week later, Terri’s phone number was also stolen.  

“It only took them 35 minutes to get into the bank account again and change the password,” Terri said.  

She showed us their Spectrum mobile statement where the 4-digit “safety code” appears right on the front, just like the online home page.  Terri said that at first the Spectrum representative didn’t believe that she had not ported her phone number.

“He said yes you did,  you gave us the PIN number.  And I said ‘no, no.’ So that makes me feel definitely the fact that the PIN was so accessible that that opens us up to this whole scam,” Terri said.

Spectrum told 7NEWS the company has recently added multi-factor authentication as an “additional layer of security when transferring mobile numbers.”

7NEWS reached out to Truist and American Express. Like all financial institutions nowadays, they say they’re seeing a sharp increase in fraud attempts, however, your accounts have fraud protection like the Phillips as long as there’s proof someone else moved the money.  AT&T told 7NEWS they have closed the new phone line. 

No matter how the hack happened, the Phillips are one of almost a million and a half Americans who become identity theft victims each year according to the Federal Trade Commission, based on 2022 numbers.

Why children are big identity theft targets

Detective Brian Byers, with the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, warned children are a growing target.  

“Identity theft is not if, it’s when. We are all going to be a victim and our children are the easiest targets cause we won’t find out about it till years later,” Byers explained.  

Byers said he’s had numerous cases like a recent one where the victim was a baby at the time of the identity theft.

“When she applied for college she found out that a person was living as her they were illegal in the country, had been using her identity for 18 years, even paying taxes and working under all her information,” Buyers said.  

Steps to guard your identity today

Well ahead of ever being a target, you would be wise to freeze your credit at all three major credit bureaus. It’s fast and free. You’ll need to contact each one and identify yourself with your social security number and other factors, but it takes less time than you think.

Also, make sure your passwords for different accounts are unique and strong. Also, use multi-factor authentication wherever possible.

If you are hacked…

If you do realize you are a target, Terri said “the first thing you need to do is get to the bank.”

It’s also important to file a police report even if you don’t think much can be done.  

Companies will ask for that to prove that you’re a victim and it’s the only way to get 7 years of fraud alerts on your accounts. 

Those fraud alerts, again at all three credit bureaus, will give you added protection that is crucial when your private information is out there. 

The Phillips said they were fortunate to get any lost funds returned.  They now watch their accounts daily knowing the hackers could strike again.

“It’s easy to steal someone’s identity, but it’s very hard to get it back,” Bob said.


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