Thursday 19 April 2018

How criminals are stealing money by taking control of people’s phone numbers

The technique isn’t brand new, but is growing increasingly popular, Stock photo
The technique isn’t brand new, but is growing increasingly popular, Stock photo

Aatif Sulleyman

Criminals are stealing people’s money by taking control of their phone numbers behind their backs, a new report says.

They’re managing to persuade agents at mobile networks to transfer control of targets’ phone numbers to their own devices.

The technique isn’t brand new, but is growing increasingly popular, according to the New York Times.

It reports that identity thieves often call agents multiple times, to request the transfer of a particular phone number, with "sob stories" about made-up emergencies commonly used.

Read more: Smartphone separation anxiety: why you feel bad without your phone

Even if their request for the number is turned down repeatedly, their hope is that they’ll eventually get to speak to an agent that falls for the scam.

Once they succeed, they can break into any accounts that use the number as a security backup, by resetting the passwords.

This can give them access to valuable information, such as bank account details, and also enable them to blackmail their intended target, by threatening to leak personal information.

However, the New York Times says criminals have started targeting investors in digital currencies – such as bitcoin – and venture capitalists, often finding them through social media.

This is largely because digital currency transactions are irreversible, leaving victims completely helpless.

Earlier this year, a security researcher discovered a "gaping hole" in Facebook that lets anyone easily break into an account.

The problem stems from the fact that Facebook allows you to link multiple phone numbers to your account, and doesn’t force you to remove old ones once you’ve stopped using them.

Therefore, anyone who inherits your old number could easily reset your password and lock you out of your own account.

Independent News Service

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