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Protecting yourself from scammers

How to keep scammers from stealing your phone number and your money

Australians are being urged to watch out for a malicious scam where criminals seek to steal their passwords to access their online bank accounts.

The scams are called mobile porting and SIM swapping. In both cases criminals try to gain control of a person’s mobile phone number so they can get into their online bank accounts through the two-step verification process.

In the mobile porting scam, criminals will contact a phone provider to create a new account and then seek to port the person’s number across to the new account with the different provider. They’ll then have control of that individual’s phone number and be able to access their online accounts. The SIM swap scam is similar, criminals will ask a mobile phone provider to activate a new SIM card with someone else’s number.

Once the criminals have someone’s number, they can receive the two step notifications for email accounts, online banking, superannuation and much more.

To help protect Australians from having their mobile phone taken over and their online security compromised, the Customer Owned Banking Association has prepared a series of tips.

  1. Watch out for your phone losing reception or going into SOS mode, this can be an indicator your mobile number has been ported.
  2. Be alert to text messages from your telco provider advising that your number will be ported to another carrier. Call the telco and let them know you didn’t authorise the transfer.
  3. Call your bank immediately and have them suspend access to accounts and two factor authentications.
  4. Be prepared, having a list of accounts that use two factor authentications will help you quickly identify who to contact, including financial institutions and government departments.
  5. Don’t store all your personal information in your email accounts, these can quickly become a treasure trove of valuable information about your identity.
  6. Change passwords on social media. If they can’t access your bank accounts using the ported number they will often use your social media accounts to contact your friends and families to try to scam them.

COBA’s Director of Fraud and Financial Crime Leanne Vale said being alert and responding quickly can help protect Australians if they fall victim to mobile porting and SIM swapping scams.

“If you think your mobile phone number has been compromised act quickly and contact your telco provider and your financial institutions immediately so they put an immediate hold on your accounts.

“Acting quickly really is the difference between becoming another victim or keeping criminals out of your accounts and getting your phone number returned.”

Ms Vale also recommended Australians check the ACCC’s ScamWatch and ACMA website to learn more about protecting themselves.

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Mick Gibb
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