If you have a cell phone, it is now the target of hackers trying to use your phone number to steal your money. And it can happen fast.
It happened to a Palm Beach County woman this week, and we have found other cases recently in other states too.
On Saturday, Elizabeth Dashiell first sign of trouble was when she couldn’t text back on her T-Mobile phone.
“It said it wasn’t registered on the network,” Elizabeth said in an interview.
That was at 12:23pm that afternoon. By 1pm, she went to T-Mobile.
“It was while I was in the store, being assisted that we discovered what happened. And it was, that someone had stolen my phone number,” she said.
Her number was ported over to a Metro PCS account.
At 1:11pm, she got an email thanking her for signing up for online banking with Wells Fargo and the money sending service called Zelle, and at 1:13pm, an email thanking her for sending money to someone named ‘Roodgaly Prince.’
“With an account I don’t touch online and sent a few thousand dollars to someone I never even heard of,” she said.
The problem isn’t unique to just South Florida.
The NBC station in Denver (9News, KUSA) did a story this week outlining the exact same thing, with the same companies, T-Mobile, Wells Fargo and Zelle. That victim’s money was gone in just 6 minutes.
“The hackers appear to be based out of Texas, with some ties to Florida,” said David Parizek is the Chief Information Officer for Info Stream (www.infostream.cc), a local IT consulting company. “The companies that are supposed to be protecting your information are not doing their job.”
I reached out to all three to find out how many people this has impacted, what’s being done to fix it, and why haven’t customers been notified.
Zelle told me to ask Wells Fargo.
Wells Fargo sent a two paragraph statement saying in part they take “customers’ accounts very seriously. We take a number of steps to protect customers.”
“We take the security of our customers’ accounts very seriously. We take a number of steps to protect customers, and we eagerly assist law enforcement agencies when needed to investigate criminal activity. However, I can’t provide you details about our fraud prevention and security efforts or share any information about a specific customer situation.
Under federal law, when a customer files a claim of fraud on their account, the bank has up to ten business days to investigate the claim and (if appropriate) provide restitution, or if further investigation is required, to offer provisional credit. In most cases, we offer provisional credit just a few days after a claim is filed. However, to protect the bank from additional fraud, we often must conduct a preliminary investigation prior to offering provisional credit. We recognize that it can be inconvenient to wait for these funds to be made available, and we try to avoid such delays whenever possible.”
T-Mobile did offer a way to protect your phone, but added it’s an industry wide issue, not just with them.
“I know Verizon has been hacked, AT&T has been hacked but what I see from T-Mobile is they’ve been hacked four times in the past two years and from that perspective, they should be learning and growing and apparently they’re not learning their lesson very quickly,” Davis said.
Elizabeth said she was happy with T-Mobile’s aggressiveness addressing the matter.
“I will say, T-Mobile jumped right on it, they had me restored by Monday.”
But she’s frustrated she’ll have to wait until after the New Year to get her money back, as Wells Fargo says they continue to investigate how an app she never downloaded was used against her.
“I said why are you still using that if it can be exploited that quickly? And she said our customers find it very convenient and I said, well guess what, so do the hackers,” Elizabeth said.
T-Mobile encourage their customers to go on their website where you can sign up for free port protection.
You can also set up two step verification to that will send you a unique code through an app, not text. That way, if your phone number is stolen, you will still be safe.