“Port out scams” are a big problem for the mobile phone cellular industry. In this scam, a criminal pretends to be you and moves your current phone number to another cellular carrier.
This process is known as “porting,” and is designed to let you keep your phone number when you switch to a new mobile carrier. Any text messages and calls to your phone number are then sent to their phone instead of yours.
This is a big problem because many online accounts, including bank accounts, use your phone number as a two-factor authentication method. They won’t let you sign in without sending a code to your phone first.
But, after the porting scam has taken place, the criminal will receive that security code on their phone. They could use it to gain access to your financial accounts and other sensitive services.
Of course, this type of attack is most dangerous if an attacker already has access to your other accounts—for example, if they already have your online banking password, or access to your email account. But it lets the attacker bypass the SMS-based security messages designed to protect you in this situation.
This attack is also known as SIM hijacking, as it moves your phone number from your current SIM card to the attacker’s SIM card.
How to protect yourself:
As with everything in life, it’s impossible to completely protect yourself. All you can do is make it harder for attackers—keep your devices secure and your passwords private, ensure you have a secure PIN associated with your cellular phone account, and avoid using SMS verification for important services.