Here’s how the scam works. The scammer either calls into your carrier or goes into a local store claiming to be you. With so much of our public information now in the public sphere, including our social security number, it’s not difficult to do. They then “port out” your phone number to a pre-paid phone on another carrier.
Now that they have control over your number, they can receive the two-factor authorization texts required to reset your email password. And from there, it becomes relatively easy, to reset your banking information and gain access to your accounts.
To protect yourself from these scams, it’s critical that you set up a port-out validation PIN with your carrier that prevents anyone who doesn’t know this number from transferring your phone to another account. Depending on the carrier, the port-out PIN may be separate from your main account PIN (as it is on T-Mobile) or the same as your account PIN (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon). You may already have a PIN on your account, but the default PIN is sometimes the last four digits of your SSN, so you should change it to something that can’t be easily guessed.
To set up your port validation PIN on T-Mobile, you need to call 611 from your T-Mobile phone or dial 1-800-937-8997 (you can’t do this online). For the other carriers, check your current PIN and ensure it is not something easily known, such as your SSN’s last four digits.
Even if you have a strong PIN, there are phishing attacks specifically targeted to uncovering it. For example, I received a pre-recorded call earlier this week with the message:
In addition, carriers use your email and/or security questions to remind you of forgotten user IDs and passwords. Use strong, unique passwords for both your email and mobile accounts, and make sure your security questions can’t be guessed using publicly available information (even if that means lying).
The company’s CEO, John Legere, says they plan to crack down on data thieves in a recent blog post. He claimed the carrier will contact a small group of people believed to be stealing data because if their activities are left unchecked, it could negatively impact honest customers. T-Mobile offers “unlimited” high-speed data with an extra 7GB a month of tethering, a feature enabling users to use their phone as a Wi-Fi hot spot for internet access on other devices like laptops or tablets, but it is limited. Scammers can rig the system by purchasing unlimited 4G data plans in order to receive a fixed amount of free data. They then find ways to milk the tethering capabilities stealing up to 2 terabytes (2,000 gigabytes) of data per month.
The hackers can download apps to conceal tethered data usage. Hackers sometimes use rooted phones or a special code to mask suspicious tethering activity. Rooted phones allow hackers to access the fundamental permissions of the phone, and using them is similar to the programming Windows administrators use to configure their systems. Rooted phones enable users to run apps requiring access to specific system settings that enhance the mobile phone experience.
Legere plans to warn violating customers and possibly remove their access to data plans if they don’t stop cheating the system.Only about 3,000 of T-Mobile’s 59 million customers reportedly stole data through unauthorized tethering.
Sprint Corporation’s parent company Softbank Corp., and T-Mobile have reached a possible agreement on merging the third and fourth largest carriers in the nation. If such a merger was approved, the two companies combined would hold a customer base over 100 million subscribers. This would place the joint company closer to AT&T who boasts 116 million wireless customers, and Verizon who has around 103 million customers. The Department of Justice (DOJ), and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would review any proposal, and there is one area they will focus on: how will the merger benefit consumers while promoting competition for choice?
When AT&T made a bid for T-Mobile three years ago, lawmakers immediately squashed the proposal, stating they prefer four major carriers in the game. T-Mobile’s power play in 2013, by rolling out amazing deals have prompted other carriers to offer installment plans, and better family plans – the lawmakers have been pleased with the competitive environment.The merger is currently in early talks, and pricing has not been confirmed. Neither company has issued a statement advising of the deal.
LETS SEE HOW IT TURNS OUT
Three of the largest US wireless service providers have announced that they will no longer charge their customers for unsolicited texts sent from so-called premium messaging services. AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have agreed to stop billing users up to $10 per month for programs that send out weather advisories, sports updates, ringtone download links and phone wallpapers – sometimes subscription based, but often without the customer’s permission.
Verizon, the largest mobile carrier in the US, is not listed among those companies who have decided to terminate these charges. The reason is they are planning to do away with their premium messaging business entirely – a decision made as a result of recent allegations that third parties have engaged in improper conduct in providing premium messaging services to their customers.
AT&T Inc customers will be able to upgrade their phones once a year instead of waiting two years. AT&T is defending itself against challenges from T-Mobile US . AT&T’s latest offering, does not require upfront device fees, comes as the No. 2 U.S. mobile provider strives to regain the market share it has been losing to market leader Verizon Wireless, and to fight back against tougher competition from smaller rivals like fourth-ranked T-Mobile US. AT&T’s offer, soon to be available on July 26, appeared to be a direct response to T-Mobile’s announcement last week that its customers can now upgrade smartphones as often as twice a year. AT&T will charge customers $15 to $50 per month, depending on the device, on top of monthly service fees under the new offering, which does not require a long-term service contract. By excluding upfront device fees in its plan, AT&T is hoping to compete with T-Mobile US, which still requires an upfront payment. T-Mobile US Chief Marketing Officer Mark Sievert says the monthly phone installments is a “trick” to get more money out of customers because it is not changing its monthly service fees. “If you’re going to charge separately for the phone like they’re doing then you need to reduce the price of the service. Otherwise you’re paying twice for the same phone.” According to data reported a Wall Street Journal article, Americans are upgrading their devices less often as innovation slows and current smartphones are more than adequate for their needs.