Family loses thousands in phone-carrier scam

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- A family has a warning about the importance of tightening the security on your cellphone carrier after they had thousands drained from their bank account.

The victim believes a T-Mobile data breach made their account information vulnerable.

They said criminals got the last four digits of their social security number and T-Mobile account number, and locked them out of everything.

“Literally in minutes our lives got turned upside down. It’s like our life is no longer ours,” Loni Haskell said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Haskell got a text message from T-Mobile that her password had been changed, but neither her nor her husband, Skylar, changed it.

Suddenly, his phone had no service. They went directly to the nearest T-Mobile store.

“They say we have a problem. Someone called in and ported your number to a different carrier and different device,” Skylar Haskell said.

The Haskells discovered someone switched their phone account to Verizon, and in minutes wiped out their bank account.

“All the sudden it was $5,000 less, I was like oh my gosh, Skylar, it’s happening. And then another one pending. I literally started crying in the car freaking out,” Loni Haskell said.

The family said the criminal started impersonating Skylar. With access to his email, they started changing PINs to every account he had linked to his phone.

“They’re inquiring about Capital One, they’re inquiring about our bank accounts, PayPal, Amazon, all the stuff that’s tied to your name and email -- they have that,” Haskell said.

Cybersecurity expert Mitch Tanenbaum said installing a two-factor authentication with your phone company is crucial.

“Anybody who thinks things like their mother’s maiden name or the last four digits of their Social Security number is actually private, they’re fooling themselves,” said Tanenbaum, who is with Cyber Cecurity consulting firm said.

The Haskels have filed a police report and are working with their bank, but they fear more people will be victimized and want to see accountability from the phone carrier.

“It is unacceptable. I don’t know how you run a business like this and jeopardize people’s livelihood the way you did with us,” Loni Haskell said.

“Unauthorized porting unfortunately continues to be an industry-wide issue and we have been working hard to address it," T-Mobile said in a statement.

"Customer security is of the utmost importance to us. We have a number of account security features in place that help our customers protect their accounts.”

T-Mobile said it highly encourages all customers to create a unique PIN for their account.

It said customers are also encouraged to add port validation to their account, which requires them to create an additional six- to 15-digit password that must be validated by the new carrier before the number can be ported.

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