Did you recently get a text from your wireless carrier encouraging you to add a pin or passcode to your account? An increase in number port out scams is the reason why.

This scam involves a fraudster transferring a victims current mobile phone number to a new service provider and a device in the their possession.

This may seem like an odd thing to do, stealing a phone number, but it gives the scammer access to your calls and texts including those account verification texts from financial institutions, email providers, and social media accounts. Many consumers have enabled two factor authentication on their financial and social media accounts and often even if you haven’t companies will notice a new device trying to login in and send text code for verification. Those short codes you get via text, or through a phone call are now going to the fraudster as they try to login in to your accounts, using already stolen credentials, or by changing your current passwords.

This enables them to login in to your bank account, credit card account, and a host of other key accounts. Once they gain access they can liquidate funds, and make other unauthorized transactions. Through email and social media they can gather more information about the victim and possibly use social engineering to scam family members and friends.

The first sign of this scam is often a loss of service on your mobile device – the device works but you have no service and can only make 911 calls. Another indication maybe account passwords that no longer work when trying to login, or an email notifying you of a password change that you did not make. This can be a very difficult fraud to recover from, since so many accounts can be affected and you have to begin the process with a mobile phone that no longer has service.

Consider using a physical security key or an authenticator app, like Authy, for two-factor authentication on your most important accounts, like banking and financial services.  Contact you financial institutions to ask about these options and how to set them up.

Additionally, add a pin or passcode to your mobile service account; all four major carriers allow you to set one up. The pin/passcode is required every time you try to change anything on the account, such as rate plan, adding a line, or swapping carriers. In order to port your number the new carrier has to get the passcode from you and provide it to your current carrier.

  • AT&T –  Log into your ATT.com account, go to your profile by clicking your name, and under the wireless passcode drop down menu, click on “manage extra security.”
  • Sprint – Sprint automatically requires their customers to set up a PIN when an account is opened
  • T-Mobile – Call 611 or (800) 937-8997 from your cell phone to speak with customer service
  • Verizon – Call (800) 922-0204 or visit vzw.com/PIN
  • For other providers call customer service and discuss your options for adding a PIN