FTC: mobile account ID theft epidemic, how to secure your phone on Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint


When you lose your phone or it gets stolen nowadays, there is a lot more at stake than a few hundred bucks for the device itself. Your mobile account is not only linked with most of your personal info, but also with your mobile payment logins, and your digital identities in general. A new security report points out that it's precisely those mobile accounts now that are the the target of identity thieves, for all sorts of reasons.

Usually the stolen mobile identities are used to go into a carrier store, and just walk out with a set of brand new expensive phones, billed on the unsuspecting victim's account. More ominous scams include the so-called "SIM swaps," where a trickster uses purchased or acquired info to impersonate someone, and get access to account transactions via mobile banking and the like. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) noticed a huge spike of complaints on mobile account hijacking in the past few years - back in January 2013 the agency had 1,038 such issues logged, while this January the complaints went up to 2,658. 

As per Lorrie Cranor, one of the victims, who had both hers and her husband's phones die on the same day (they thought was an issue with the service provider): "We found out that someone had gone into the phone store in another city with a fake ID and said they wanted to upgrade their phones. They walked out with two brand new iPhones with our phone numbers on them and charged to our account."

Needless to say, a lot of calls and days later, the service was restored and amounts refunded, but the carriers are the ones eating the charges, so industry associations and carriers themselves are coming up with methods like two-factor authentication and others, to combat this phenomenon. Here's what the FTC advises you to do, in order to prevent easy mobile account hijacking:

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source: FTCNBC
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