Your cell phone is a great convenience, but it also provides a dangerous privacy threat that can have a devastating impact on your finances. By setting up a phony cell-phone account in your name, criminals are able to access your bank account, sign up for credit cards and run up huge bills you will be responsible for, or sell the phone number to other criminals.
Unfortunately, cell phone fraud is hard to detect, and there are few consumer protections to help. By the time you realize there is a problem, criminals can drain your bank account and ruin your credit rating, and they may even commit crimes in your name.
The incidence of cell phone fraud is growing rapidly. In 2017 the number of victims of fraudulent mobile-phone accounts jumped 63 percent from a year earlier, to about 340,000, according to Consumer Reports.
If you find yourself in financial difficulty from cell phone fraud or any other reason, there is help available. The skilled and seasoned Ohio debt-relief attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer (shouldn’t this be directed to our home page?) understand that anyone can find themselves financially victimized and in a resulting financial hole. We offer a free consultation to evaluate your problems and find solutions, so contact us at our offices or online today.
How Fraud Occurs
Cell-phone accounts are relatively easy to open if a criminal has gotten your personal information, such as your social security and driver’s license number, and your address and home phone number. This information can be obtained from sources online, such as from social media or hackers. Once your information is used to open a cell phone account, there are several types of schemes criminals use, including:
- Porting Your Phone Number — Criminals take your existing cell-phone number and transfer it to a fake account which they use to access your bank, retirement, and other accounts.
- Establishing a credit history — Criminals have the cell-phone bill they open in your name sent to a different address. They pay the bills long enough to establish a credit history. They use this history to apply for credit cards and other loans in your name and run up big bills.
- Selling the new phone number to other criminals — This could implicate you in suspected criminal activity if your number is used to commit crimes.
- Obtaining an expensive phone — Criminals sign up for a phone plan in your name and finance a new, expensive phone. They sell the phone and leave you with the charges.
How to Protect Yourself
Once you are aware that cell phone fraud can happen to you, there are steps you can take to help prevent becoming a victim:
- Freeze your credit information that is used to open a cell-phone account from companies. A common company used for this purpose is the National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange (NCTUE), a credit reporting agency fed by data supplied by phone, pay-TV companies, and utility service providers. Contact them online; by telephone (866-349-5355); or by mail (NCTUE Security Freeze, O. Box 105561, Atlanta, GA 30348). You can also freeze your information at the big-four credit reporting agencies—Experian, TransUnion, Equifax, and Innovis.
- Get a free credit report from each credit bureau—including from these smaller, less well-known ones—once per year, and examine reports for inconsistencies.
- Get a PIN for your cell-phone account to prevent criminals from transferring your phone number to a new account without your knowledge. Most cell-phone service providers have security measures, but you usually have to contact your company to set this up on a voluntary basis.
- Pay closer attention to your cell-phone bill, bank account, and other financial transactions. Check your accounts frequently and read all alerts. Contact your wireless provider immediately if you stop receiving calls or texts, and report any suspicious activity immediately. There are no well-defined consumer protections for cell-phone companies, so the sooner you identify and report the fraud, the sooner fraudulent charges will stop and the less likely you’ll be held liable for damages.
- Guard your passwords, personal identification numbers and personal information. Contact your provider if you receive “pfishing” calls, emails, or texts asking for personal information.
- Be aware of phone scams such as calls that ask “Can you hear me?” and record your “yes” response to make unauthorized charges on phone or utility bills.
- If you suspect a scam, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at ohioprotects.org or 800-282-0515.
Contact Us for Help
If you have been a victim of cell phone fraud and are having problems as a result, you may benefit from legal assistance. The experienced and compassionate Ohio debt relief attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer (it seems like these should be directed to our Home page instead of the About Us page) are familiar with the issues involved and offer a free consultation to evaluate your situation.
Delaying can only make your problems worse, so call or email the Ohio bankruptcy attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer today so we can determine the best way to get you on the road to financial recovery.