Your cell phone can get stolen while it’s in your own pocket. Someone can pose as you, call your cell phone company and take control of your device.
It happened recently to a man from Miami Shores and the NBC 6 Investigators have learned it’s a new crime that’s happening nationwide.
Ed Hyden, of Miami Shores, was celebrating recently with family and friends when he noticed no one was calling or texting to wish him a happy birthday.
“My mom hadn’t called, my grandparents, my brothers,” said Hyden.
That is when Hyden realized he no longer controlled his own phone, but he didn’t know why.
“It took us about 36 hours to figure out exactly what was happening,” he said.
By then, the damage had already been done. It turns out, someone called the phone company, posing as him, and switched his phone number to a different phone. According to Hyden, all they needed was his name, his phone number and the last four digits of his Social Security Number.
“Knowing that someone can just come in and transfer that service to take anything they want, that’s terrifying,” said Hyden.
In a matter of hours, his stolen identity and phone were used to cause some serious damage.
“That’s when I found the $10,000 plus charges on AmEx that I didn’t make,” explained Hyden. He said his email account had also been hacked.
The calls and texts verifying the changes and charges went to his phone, which he didn’t have control of, the thief did.
It’s called “porting” when it’s done legally.
Miami Dade Detective Marcos Rodriguez said, “Somewhere, somehow, his personal information was compromised.”
Detective Rodriguez has investigated dozens of similar cases but said people don’t often hear about the crime because it is under reported.
“Usually when people report identity theft, they’ll report the bigger fraud like the credit cards that were ordered, the loans taken under their names,” said Det. Rodriguez.
The FCC called the case “alarming” and said it has received about a hundred similar complaints nationwide.
There are precautions you can take. You can call your cell phone provider to have an extra four digit pin number set up to access your account. That’s what Ed Hyden did.
The NBC 6 Investigators contacted Hyden’s cell phone provider, Verizon Wireless. A company spokesperson said they can’t comment on specific customer cases but released a statement:
“Verizon is always working to stay one step ahead of the criminals and updating our authentication processes. The trick is balancing security with customer experience. We always want to make processes as secure as possible while making it easy for customers to do legitimate business with us.”
Verizon said they are alerting customers about a number of scams and fraud alerts that are taking place right now.
Meanwhile, Hyden is still trying to figure out how someone got so much of his personal information.
“It’s violating, to think that people are out there committing crimes against other people, and it’s just as simple as making a phone call and having a few bits of information,” said Hyden.
Detectives said it’s important not to store any personal information or passwords on your phone or email.