T-Mobile has begun dispatching a warning text message to customers in the United States. All customers are being sent the alert, but in waves; it would stress the network to send a message to all customers at the same time.
What is the scam?
Most users today have phone numbers associated with everything, from social media accounts to email addresses, bank accounts and so on. They are consistently used as an authentication measure and fallback if you forget your password, and help to "verify" you are who you say you are. Because of this, phone numbers have become a huge target for scammers, and they aren't being lazy about it. The criminal basically contacts the phone company (T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T etc) and impersonates whoever they are attempting to hijack. If successful, they request a new SIM card with another phone provider and activate it with the phone number of the user they targeted. This procedure is called "porting".
Using the phone number, they are able to reset account access to various services, including emails, social media accounts, bank accounts, and more. Once the scammer has this level of access, they can worm their way into users bank accounts (by requesting password resets) and transfer funds out of the accounts.
Motherboard reported one person losing $2,000 to this scheme:
"Today I lived a nightmare. My phone all of the sudden stopped working. I tried to contact T-Mobile through Twitter—no phone right?—It took them an hour to let me know that someone must have transferred my number to another carrier and they asked me to call my bank to let them know. I immediately log in on my bank account and voila! $2,000 were gone,
Carriers are trying to be proactive about the issue, and help keep customers safe. T-Mobile has dedicated an entire page to customer security, which has additional information for those interested. As a solution to the issue, T-Mobile proposes that users create an additional level of validation:
We suggest you add our port validation feature to your account. To do this, you'll need to call 611 from your T-Mobile phone or dial 1-800-937-8997 from any phone. The T-Mobile customer care representative will ask you to create a 6-to-15-digit passcode that will be added to your account.
They go on to explain that scammers will not be able to port your phone number to a new carrier unless they have the passcode you create. This is a great layer of added security and highly advised for everyone using a mobile phone. On top of this, it is advised to check with your bank account for additional authentication options, as well as any other online accounts you may have.
We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.