Mo­bile port­ing threat

New scam a po­ten­tial gold­mine

The Coffs Coast Advocate - - FIND YOUR CAR ON FIND A - NICK WHIGHAM

ON A Mon­day morn­ing at 11.02am Syd­ney woman Lisa John­ston an­swered the phone with the same greet­ing she al­ways does.

“Hello, Lisa speak­ing,” she said. But the caller im­me­di­ately hung up. It was a bit strange, but she got on with her day.

At 6.59pm that night she re­ceived a text mes­sage from Op­tus, telling her that her mo­bile num­ber had been ported across to a dif­fer­ent car­rier, or more ac­cu­rately stolen by some­one want­ing to ran­sack her bank ac­count.

The mes­sage urged her to call the com­pany if she didn’t re­quest for the num­ber to be ported out.

“I couldn’t even con­tact them through my mo­bile be­cause I’d lost ser­vice,” she told “I called lit­er­ally two min­utes (later), as soon as it hap­pened.”

But the dam­age was done and she quickly re­ceived no­ti­fi­ca­tions from her Net­bank app con­firm­ing trans­ac­tions she didn’t make.

“Pretty much im­me­di­ately I had $1000 taken out of my Net­bank ac­count and another $180 through BPay to buy a Tel­stra pre­paid card or some­thing,” she said.

Ms John­ston, 34, owns a mar­ket­ing agency in Drum­moyne, Syd­ney, called Chat­ter Brand Ex­pe­ri­ence and has a num­ber of busi­ness ac­counts used for clients and staff. She had to freeze all of them, as well as her per­sonal bank ac­counts to pre­vent fur­ther theft.

She spent all Mon­day night on the phone try­ing to stem the dam­age done to her busi­ness and get her mo­bile num­ber back, which had been moved across to Voda­fone.

It can take sur­pris­ingly lit­tle in­for­ma­tion to port-out a mo­bile num­ber to a dif­fer­ent car­rier. Ms John­ston was told by an Op­tus staff mem­ber that it only re­quires some­one’s name, ad­dress and date of birth to move a num­ber across.

Many vic­tims re­port having had their mail stolen, an easy way for fraud­sters to get the de­tails they need like names and ac­count num­bers.

It’s a typ­i­cal tac­tic for fraud­sters to port-out the num­ber at the close of busi­ness hours, par­tic­u­larly on a Fri­day af­ter­noon, mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult for vic­tims to con­tact the nec­es­sary cus­tomer ser­vices and halt the process, giv­ing the fraud­ster time to ex­ploit their win­dow of op­por­tu­nity.

“These peo­ple are pro­fes­sion­als,” Ms John­ston said, re­mark­ing on what felt like a clin­i­cal takeover of her ac­counts by crim­i­nals.

“I am fu­ri­ous with Op­tus and Voda­fone for not do­ing more thor­ough se­cu­rity checks, as the money that was taken is to pay my mort­gage for the month.”

De­spite it be­ing some­what of a blind spot for tel­cos, they’ve been slow to act and in­tro­duce tougher de­fault mea­sures to mit­i­gate against the threat of il­le­gal port­ing.

Dr Terry Goldswor­thy is a for­mer de­tec­tive in­spec­tor for the Queens­land po­lice who now works as an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at Bond Univer­sity. He be­gan re­search­ing the preva­lence of il­le­gal port­ing early last year but says re­li­able data is al­most non-ex­is­tent.

In April last year the NSW po­lice cre­ated a phone port­ing cat­e­gory for com­plaints, how­ever if they do get re­ported to po­lice or con­sumer bod­ies most cases typ­i­cally get filed as in­stances of generic fraud.

“The ac­tual of­fence num­bers are get­ting diluted,” Dr Gold­wor­thy said.

“I’m sure it’s hap­pen­ing more than we know.”

Photo: iS­tock

BLIND SPOT: It can take sur­pris­ingly lit­tle in­for­ma­tion for fraud­sters to port-out a mo­bile num­ber.

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