You know there is a problem when the Federal Trade Commission reports that its chief of technology became a victim of phone identity theft. There was a time when criminals stole cellphones from unsuspecting victims who realized relatively quickly that their mobile phone was missing. The latest wave of mobile phone identity theft targets the phone user's account instead of the device itself.
Thieves acquire and use your personal information to access your mobile phone account. They use that access to change your account, or they might even open a new account and close your old one. Meanwhile, you are unaware of any problems with your account until your phone stops working because the thieves purchased new phones and had your phone removed from the account.
There are four steps you can take to limit your vulnerability to phone identity theft. Taking these steps might not prevent you from becoming a victim, but it might make it so difficult for thieves to access your account that they move on to a new potential victim.
Create and use a password or PIN for your account
A password or PIN can make it difficult for other people to access and make changes to your account. Most mobile carriers offer some form of account protection that could also include security questions that only you would be able to answer. Carriers also have a feature that locks someone out if they fail after a certain number of online attempts to gain access to your account.
Do not give your account information to anyone you do not know
Don't give personal information or account access codes to someone calling and claiming to be from your mobile phone company. It could be a phishing scam in which the caller attempts to trick you into believing he or she is from your carrier. Unless you initiated the call, hang up and call your carrier at the telephone number on your monthly bill to report the incident.
Check monthly bills for suspicious activity
If you are like most people, the only part of your monthly phone statement that you read is the section that tells you how much you owe. Review your monthly charges on the statement to identify any suspicious activity. For example, you might see service for a second phone added to your monthly mobile phone bill. You should report suspicious activity right away to your carrier.
Protect the data that is on your phone
Your mobile phone contains a great deal of personal information about you, but many people simply toss it in the garbage when they upgrade to a new one. Anyone in possession of your phone will have access to all the data that is on it. If you do not know how to remove data from your old phone before properly disposing of it, the employees at the local retail outlet of your mobile carrier will help you.
If you fall victim to phone identity theft, contact your mobile carrier immediately to report it. Identity theft is a crime in all states.