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This is how scammers are robbing you just with your mobile number

Guard your personal information carefully. (Photo: Getty)

Fraudsters are draining Aussies’ bank accounts and accessing their email inboxes – just by stealing their mobile number.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has reported that consumers have complained about the theft of their mobile number by fraudulent third parties.

How do they do it?

The scammer convinces the mobile service provider to switch the consumer’s mobile number to a SIM in the fraudster’s possession, known as a SIM swap, or they might try to transfer the mobile number to a different mobile service.

To do this, they’ve got to trick the mobile provider into thinking that they really are the owner of the number and pass the mobile provider’s identity verification tests.

“Fraudsters are developing new ways to collect personal information about a consumer – accessing social media profiles, posing as telemarketers, or sending deceptive emails,” said TIO Ombudsman Judi Jones.

“They use this information to impersonate consumers, deceive mobile service providers, and steal consumer’s mobile numbers.”

Once a fraudster has access to a consumer’s mobile number, they can use it to access their bank accounts, emails, and other online accounts.

How can this happen so easily?

Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that some mobile service providers have “a low bar for identity verification” and don’t require much information in verifying the identity of a consumer.

“For instance, we found instances where providers only required the consumer’s full name, date of birth and the mobile number as proof of identity,” TIO said in its latest Systemic Spotlight report on the issue.

“We were particularly concerned to see some identity verifications were conducted solely through online chat.

How do I protect my number?

The more public your personal information is, the more susceptible you are to having your mobile number stolen. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself:

  • Don’t open or respond to emails asking for bank details, phone number or other personal details
  • Don’t respond to callers who ask for access to your computer, and certainly don’t provide any passwords or other information. Hang up
  • Don’t click on links in emails or text messages saying you have won a prize or have a message, especially if you don’t know the sender.
  • Pare back any exposure of your personal details such as your full name, mobile number, and full date of birth on social media, online dating sites or blogs, or ensure this information is hidden from public view
  • Lock your letterbox: fraudsters can access personal information by physically stealing mail

What should I do if my number is stolen?

If your service is suddenly disconnected or you’ve received a notification about a SIM swap that you didn’t authorise, you might have fallen victim this scam. Here’s what to do:

  • Call your bank to explain your number’s been taken, and ask them to check for any unusual withdrawals or transactions on your account
  • Call your mobile provider to get your number back
  • Contact Australia’s national identity and cyber support service IDCARE on idcare.org and 1300 432 273
  • If theft has occurred, contact the police
  • If you have a complaint about how your mobile service provider dealt with you about a SIM swap, contact TIO on tio.com.au or 1800 062 058.

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