Security & Fraud

FTC Warns Of Mobile Phone ID Hacking

Mobile phones have become the latest target of hackers, according to a new note published on the FTC’s website by Lorrie Cranor, the FTC’s chief technologist.

According to this post, which detailed a first-hand account of a hack, there is risk for mobile phones to be hacked and for identity information to be stolen by those hackers. According to data from the FTC, there has been a growing trend of ID theft as a result of mobile phones being hacked into.

These crimes include phones being hijacked in a manner that then has the hacker open another account in the victim’s name. For example, in one month in 2013, there were more than 1,000 types of these incidents that occurred. By the same month (January) in 2016, that same figure had grown to 2,658 incidents, which is 6.3 percent of all ID theft reports to the FTC.

“Identity theft reports to the FTC likely represent only the tip of a much larger iceberg. According to data from the Identity Theft Supplement to the 2014 National Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, less than 1 percent of identity theft victims reported the theft to the FTC,” Cranor wrote.

Most importantly, Cranor wrote: “Most of the account hijackings likely occurred without the victims having provided information to fraudsters themselves.”

In fact, with the ability to use reverse phone number websites, hackers have easily been able to find the carrier associated with any U.S. phone number, making it easier for hackers to get the initial information they need, which includes other personal credentials. Cranor also warns that some ID theft victims have given personal information over the phone to a person who was impersonating a representative from their mobile carrier.

And then, here’s the real kicker.

“Some thieves use their victim’s hijacked phone number to gain access to financial accounts that use two-factor authentication through text messages,” Cranor wrote.


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