The “port-out” scam is used by identity thieves once they have collected critical information about you -- through phishing attempts or from major data breaches. They use your name, phone number, Social Security number, date of birth, etc. to call your mobile phone service provider pretending to be you and tell them that you're switching to another company and want to keep your phone number.

What to Know

  • Transferring your number from one carrier to another is a process called "porting" that shuts off the phone of the original user and forwards all calls to the new device. It can take up to 24 hours to complete and during this time, both phones could be functional.
  • During this window of opportunity, a scammer can have access to all of your text-based authentication codes, too, meaning any text messages that you receive on your phone may also be seen by the scammer on the phone to which your number is being transferred.
  • This scam is not new, but it has reached a boiling point in the last few months resulting in a flood of complaints from victims. Earlier this year, T-Mobile, AT&T and other mobile carriers began encouraging their customers to add extra security features to their accounts (e.g., a unique passcode/PIN, additional security questions).

What to Do

  • Add a unique PIN to your phone account - All carriers have additional options to secure your account against port-outs. Contact your mobile provider directly about adding porting and/or port out security on your account.
  • Watch out for phishing attempts - Scammers will typically send out phishing emails disguised as important alerts and warning messages to scare you into clicking a malicious link. If you have any concerns about your accounts, always log in directly to a company's website or call its customer service line and proceed from there.
  • Beware of social engineering scams - Don't reveal any personal information to strangers, especially on online chats, no matter how casual and friendly the conversation may be – scammers can pose as people that you may know - with fake Facebook accounts - so please be vigilant (even with your friends).
  • Contact your carrier immediately if your phone suddenly gets deactivated - If you suddenly lose your network connection, contact your carrier immediately. Use another phone, if needed. Identity thieves are counting on this window of opportunity to perform their deeds, so don’t delay.

This material is presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual advice.

KeyBank does not provide legal advice.