AM 760 KFMB - Talk Radio Station - San Diego, CA - Scam Warning: Criminals steal phone numbers to drain bank accoun

Scam Warning: Criminals steal phone numbers to drain bank accounts

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The Better Business Bureau is warning about a new scam where criminals steal your phone number and then drain your bank accounts.

Last month Jenn Nelson noticed she lost cell service on her phone.

"I thought it was weird, but I didn't really worry about it," said Nelson.

She got online through WiFi and received an email from her bank that her account balance was low.

But when she tried to log on to her bank's site, her password didn't work.

"I thought 'oh my god, someone stole my password to my bank,'" Nelson said.

Nelson, who's disabled, got a hold of her bank only to find out her account had been drained of nearly $2,000 dollars.

"It was terrifying," Nelson said of seeing her account with only a few dollars in it.

It turns out Nelson was the victim of what's being called a porting scam.

"This is identity theft," said BBB Chief Security Officer Bill Fanelli.

Fanelli says in these cases criminals need to know some of your personal information.

Email addresses, phone numbers and even social security numbers can be found on the dark web.

The con artist then contacts your cell phone provider.

"They then call and convince them they're you," said Fanelli.

The criminal, pretending to be you, has your phone service cancelled. They then buy a new device from a different phone carrier but keep your phone number.

The next step: they go to your bank's website and enter your username, for some banks it's your email address.

The con artist then requests a new password.

The bank sends that new password request to your phone with a text.

But since the criminal now has your phone number, it goes directly to them. With the new password, they can log on and drain your account.

"They know what your accounts are, and they are ready to go right away," said Fanelli.

Fanelli says this type of crime is rare and many cell providers have already alerted their customers to create a unique pin number so that a criminal cannot impersonate them.

"It's typically a 4-, 6-, even a 12-digit number that is tied to making this level of change to your account," said Fanelli.

"I didn't even know this could happen," said Nelson.

Nelson doesn't know how the hackers go her personal info.

The good news is her bank restored all her stolen funds and her cell provider got her phone number back.

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