Identity theft has become such a serious crime that criminals can now steal your identity via your mobile phone. It recently happened to the FTC’s Chief Technologist, Lorrie Cranor and a few of her colleagues.
So how does it happen? You might get a surprise bill for a new phone that you never order. The thief used your personal information to create a new account. Your phone could even stop working entirely because someone used your information to upgrade to a new phone and then shut off the phone you’re using.
Ways to protect yourself against this type of identity theft:
- Create a PIN or password:You need to be able to use this before making any changes on your mobile phone account. Each carries offers this feature in a slightly different way. Be sure to check with your carrier on how you can set up this extra security.
- Beware of phishing scams:Thieves might call you and pretend to be your mobile phone carrier to request info such as codes from your phone or other personal information. Never give this information over the phone unless you initiated the call. Also, make sure you call the number listed on your bill and not a number given to you over the phone.
- Check your monthly bills:Check your mobile phone and credit card bills every month for signs of fraud. If you see something suspicious, immediately contact the fraud department of your mobile carrier.
- Dispose mobile phones safely: When you do get a new phone, don’t just throw your old one in the trash and forget about it. First, remove every little bit of personal information and data to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Then, you can consider recycling or donating your old phone.
In the event that you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report the incident and receive a personal recovery plan.